QU students try to raise homelessness awareness by living 'without a home' for a night

Quincy University students huddle close to a fire early Thursday morning after spending the night outside in tents and lying on boxes as part of the "One Night Without a Home" event. (H-W Photo/Steve Bohnstedt)
Posted: Nov. 15, 2012 11:04 am Updated: Nov. 29, 2012 11:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Jessica Grimes knew she had it pretty good in life.

However, she didn't realize how good she had it until her service club at Cor Jesu High School in St. Louis started to volunteer once a month at a homeless shelter for women and children.

"It opened my eyes to a completely new side of the world that I didn't know existed before I worked there," Grimes said. "It was a new experience. I learned a lot and it kind of opened my eyes to some of the bad parts of life. I know there are people who need our help."

When Grimes saw that Quincy University was going to take part in National Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week, she made sure to get involved. The sophomore accounting major was one of 30 QU students who took part in a "One Night without a Home" event overnight Wednesday and Thursday morning. The participants did a variety of things to try to raise awareness of homelessness.

The group set up a area to sleep in at the school's "Windows To The Future" lawn near Willer Hall. Five people had tents set up. Many others used cardboard boxes to try and shield them from the elements. Grimes was part of a group that set up a fort using a cardboard box. She was going to try to stave off the cold by using blankets, a winter coat and an extra pair of socks, all things that might be a luxury to an actual homeless person.

The event started with a soup kitchen being set up in the QU cafeteria. From there participants made signs and showed them off at the school's residence hall and outside the health and fitness center.

"It brings awareness to those who are without a home," said Natasha Ramsey, director of Multicultural and Leadership programs at QU. "For those who have shelters to go to once we are finished with this night, the goal is while they are out here to remember that there are people who go through this on a daily basis."

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, of the about 636,000 people who are homeless on any given night in America, nearly 4 in 10 are unsheltered. Statistics show the odds of experiencing homelessness for a person in the U.S. are 1 in 194.

"We want to bring that recognition to forefront," Ramsey said.

Ramsey was happy so many students decided to get involved with the program.

"I'm excited that students are giving it a chance and wanting to stick it out out here," she said. "They're wanting to go a mile in someone else's shoes."