Students learn about homelessness at Shantytown

Clarksville, Tennessee sophomore Malika Pitt carries a cardboard box that her group used as building material at the homelessness awareness event, Shantytown, during Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week Monday on South Lawn. Student teams were given scenarios of homelessness and then constructed shelters meeting requirements of the scenario. Mike Clark/HERALD

Erian Bradley

The Shantytown event brought about 15 people out to face freezing temperatures on Monday as they congregated on South Lawn to experience the effect of being homeless. 

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 610,042 people in the United States were homeless in 2013 on any given night. 

Housing and Residence Life, the ALIVE Center and the Homeless and Housing Coalition of South Central Kentucky came together for the yearly tradition of Shantytown. 

The program helps students understand the impact of homelessness in the U.S, and in Bowling Green in particular.  

Shantytown is a part of Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week, a week-long event focused on bringing these issues to light. 

At the event, WKU students used cardboard boxes to simulate shanties and the experience of being homeless. Afterward, students reflected about how the experience affected them and what struggles they came across. 

During the event, participants learned that some homeless individuals suffer from disabilities. These disabilities were recreated during the event, such as being blindfolded to represent blindness or having an arm tied around their back to represent physical disability. 

Kimberly Miles, Shepherdsville junior, participated in Shantytown with the Meredith Hall group. Miles is a resident assistant in the hall.

She says that helping to build the group’s project gave her a new perspective on homelessness.

“Homelessness isn’t just someone who lost a job or isn’t trying, it really can happen to anyone,” Miles said.

Participants also learned that the homelessness experience can vary by region, such as living flood-prone region.

Branson, Missouri graduate student Ethan Sykes, who helped organize the event, said the event included fictional stories to help make the experience more personal.

“Each person has something different, like one person can’t see, and another has a family they need to take care of…” he said.

Other events for Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week include a food donation drive and an opportunity to win tickets to see The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1.