The proverbial saying, “Don’t judge another man until you have walked a mile in his shoes,” will be on the minds of student volunteers from Mercyhurst University as they erect the annual Cardboard Village on Tuesday, Nov. 19, in an effort to help Habitat for Humanity recognize Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.
As with recent years, students set up boxes outside of Zurn Hall on the Erie campus, spending more than 12 hours in the makeshift cardboard homes. Spending the night outside, students experience what it’s like to be temporarily homeless and, in turn, they help raise both awareness and money for the cause.
This year, donations will benefit survivors affected by the recent typhoon in the Philippines, as well as Shelter Overflow, a program sponsored by The Erie Community Foundation, which provides food, water and shelter to the homeless in the immediate area.
“It’s important to educate students on homelessness because it’s a widely pervasive issue, not only in the United States, but across the globe,” said team leader Sarah Baumgarten, a graduate student in forensic and biological anthropology. “I think many students don’t know a lot about the issue of homelessness. The scary thing is that it can happen to anybody.”
The National Alliance to End Homelessness reports that, on average, more than 600,000 Americans are homeless on any given night. That figure breaks down to reveal that 22.1 percent are children, 13 percent are veterans and 42.6 percent of the homeless are disabled and/or unable to work.
Overseas, the figures are much worse. Outside of the United States, it’s estimated that more than 100 million people are homeless, with some of the highest rates found in the following countries: India (78 million), Nigeria (24.4 million) and Brazil (20 million).
“In the midst of a busy semester with assignments, exams and so on, it is fitting to have this stark reminder in the middle of our campus,” said Greg Baker, director of Campus Ministry. “Homelessness is real, and it is on the rise in Erie. As a university in the tradition of the Sisters of Mercy, we are reminded that it is our job, not someone else’s, to work to alleviate the suffering of others.”
The Mercyhurst community is encouraged to stop by the Cardboard Village where students will be holding a Penny War drive, accepting monetary donations and distributing information about homelessness and hunger.
In addition to Campus Ministry, the following student-run clubs, organizations and teams are participating in the event: College Democrats, Pi Sigma Alpha (honor society), Mercyhurst Empowerment of Women (MEOW), Wednesday Night Fellowship and the Volleyball Team.
For more information about the event, contact Greg Baker in Campus Ministry at 824-2301.