Shantytown raises awareness of local homelessness at WKU

Michael McKay

Cardboard boxes have once again taken over WKU South Lawn for the 21st Shantytown on campus.

Shantytown is an overnight event that allows students and organizations to participate in activities designed to simulate the challenges of homelessness. Shantytown started at 7 p.m. on Wednesday and will end at 7 a.m. Thursday morning. 

The Residence Hall Association organized the event with Housing and Residence Life, the Alive Center and Habitat for Humanity.

Lindsey Gilmore, an advisor for RHA, said that this year’s Shantytown is focusing more on practicality than in previous years.

“We are building shanties, but the idea is that you build something you can actually sleep in as opposed to this massive amount of cardboard that you are just trying to build very tall and win a skyscraper award to put in your hall,” Gilmore said. “When really, we are trying to raise awareness of homelessness in the area.”

Gilmore said the change was due to a growing number of interested students.

“Now the students want to be involved in the community,” Gilmore said. “They want to give back. They want to be here.”

Students in the dorms worked together to build community structures to spend the night in.

Jamestown freshman Lauren Haynes said Minton Hall is committed to sleeping in its shanty.

“Some of us are bringing homework to do in the shanty,” Haynes said. “It was important for us to not wimp out.”

Shanty construction was not limited to  only those in the dorms.

More than 20 members of Omega Phi Alpha sorority came out to help build shanties.

Kateiri Kintz, an OPA member and resident assistant in Meredith Hall, said her sorority was happy to help in any way it could. OPA also sponsored s’mores making for event participants.

“We felt that is a great way to show that we are trying to raise homeless awareness,” Kintz said.

Gamma Sigma Sigma sorority also helped out by offering hot chocolate throughout the night.

Gamma Sigma Sigma member Shirelle Williams, of Jeffersonville, Ind., said participating in Shantytown let her experience what it’s like for those who are less fortunate.

“It keeps us humble,” Williams said.

Gilmore said she was hopeful students would gain a new perspective on what it means to be homeless.

“They are going to feel what its really like to be homeless tonight,” she said.