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Youth prepare for National Homeless Awareness Week by sleeping in boxes

By Staff | Nov 9, 2010

About 30 young people participated in the first local "Box City" an event to create awareness for the homeless. They raised over $400 dollars along with several donations that went to the Son Light House. They slept in refrigerator boxes on Friday night in front of the Clarkstown United Methodist Church.

CLARKSTOWN- Huddled in refrigerator boxes covered with tarps, area youth groups spent Friday night sleeping in the cold outdoors to remind us of what it is like to be homeless. The week before Thanksgiving is National Homeless Awareness Week and four United Mehtodist Churches joined together at the Clarkstown United Methodist Church parking lot to be “homeless” for the night.

“The weather is slowly changing and the holidays are coming upon us, we are reminded that this is a time for thankfulness and sharing with those less fortunate,” said Kevin Murray, one of the volunteer youth leaders for the event. During the course of the night, donations were being accepted for the food banks and shelters to help out large numbers of people in the community to get through the winter months.

Area youth groups came together Friday night to form a “Box City” from the Clarkstown United Methodist Church, Bethany United Methodist Church, Pennsdale United Methodist Church and the Watsontown United Methodist Church.

They were “homeless” through noon on Sat., Nov. 6th and restricted from having any electronic devices and even food, unless friends and family feed them. A garbage can was filled with sandwiches and snacks organized to look like real garbage explained Chris Warner, youth leader for Clarkstown United Methodist Church.

Parishioners provided food and to add realism, half empty bottles of water and wrapped morsels of food where hidden among trash in a dumpster. The participants had the learning experience of deciding what was safe and editable and what was not.

Parent volunteers were busy throughout the day preparing for the event. “They are to spend as much time as they can outside, but may come into the social hall to get warm, unlike the homeless. During this time they will be collecting non-perishable foods, clothing, coats, and blankets for donation to the Son Light House in Muncy,” said Warner.

About 30 youth showed up for the night, most of them coming after the Muncy/Hughesville football game. Most of the kids were between the ages of 13 to 18.

Carina Dunlap said, “When I told my friends I was sleeping in a box, they just looked at me and asked why? It wasn’t bad sleeping in a box; I was one of two from Clarkstown who didn’t take breaks inside the church.”

Ryan Murray said, “It was really fun but cold.”

According to Rebecca Kriner, “You never know how much you take for granted until you experience what being homeless is like.”

“It was insane trying to sleep in a cramped box in the freezing cold, and then realize the next morning that’s how some people live their life. We had trouble dealing with it for one night,” Kelly Reed said.

The youth’s efforts were rewarded with locals donating coats, clothing, blankets, non perishable food items, and $411.00. “There’s several truck loads of stuff and we couldn’t be more pleased,” Murray said.

Beiters donated 20 refrigerator boxes for the youth to use and Freezer’s Auto Parts in Hughesville stored them until the youth were ready to decorate them. Although this was the inaugural event for the Box City, both leaders and youth agreed to do this again next year.

FYI: As we pause to honor veterans on their designated day, statistics provided by the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs report that: Ninety-five percent of homeless veterans are male and five percent female, with as many as 107,000 vets homeless on any given night. Many suffer from disorders including mental illness and alcohol/substance abuse. Approximately one in three homeless adults served this country at one point in time. Five out of the nine homeless veterans are African-Americans or Hispanics. More than one million vets are in danger of being homeless due to poverty, lack of social support and below standard housing.