An estimated 12,000 homeless Ohioans have only a cardboard box to serve as shelter during cold winter nights. Ohio Wesleyan University student organizations seek to raise both funds and awareness to improve the lives of these people.
The OWU chapter of Habitat for Humanity and Progress OWU are partnering with Delaware County Habitat for Humanity to sponsor a Shack City in front of Welch Hall. Shack City is a Habitat program that raises money for the construction of no-interest homes by allowing youths to spend the night outside in a community of cardboard boxes.
The program has traditionally involved only high school students involved in Habitat’s Youth United chapter, but this changed when Ohio Wesleyan’s chapter jumped on the opportunity to participate.
“Delaware County Habitat said that the Youth United chapter was participating in the event again, and they invited us to hold our own site of the event,” says Megan Weaver ’11, vice president of OWU’s Habitat chapter. “We decided that it would be a good way to raise awareness for homelessness as well as Habitat for Humanity on our campus.”
A screening of “Swept Out”—OWU sociology and anthropology professor Mary Howard’s documentary on homelessness in Columbus—will be shown at 8 p.m. Saturday in Welch Café to kick-off OWU’s Shack City.
Howard will lead a discussion covering homeless camps following the film. During the discussion, attendees will benefit by hearing the real-life stories of former homeless camp members Ken Andrews and a man who simply goes by “Fred.”
“It’s very important to hear what they have to say,” Weaver says. “Being able to see the documentary and having Fred, who was homeless, come speak to us fits very nicely with the theme of the event.”
Students attending Shack City are required to bring at least one canned food item to be donated to Delaware’s People in Need and the Columbus Open Shelter. Monetary donations also are encouraged and will go toward Delaware County Habitat for Humanity.
Events like Shack City are particularly important because they can mobilize the student body to make even greater efforts in the future, Weaver says.
“Hopefully, we will be able to show students what this life is like and encourage them to get involved with organizations that work toward these issues,” she says “This can help people get involved whether it’s donating money and canned goods, or volunteering their time by working at a homeless shelter or building a [Habitat] house.”
In addition to Shack City, OWU Habitat for Humanity is co-sponsoring a concert by folk musician John McCutcheon to raise money for Delaware County Habitat for Humanity. The concert, which inaugurates the construction of a Habitat house completely sponsored by the Ohio Wesleyan and Youth United chapters, will be held at 8 p.m. November 12 in Gray Chapel. Tickets are $15, and can be purchased through the University Chaplain’s Office. Tickets also will be available at the door.