There was the sound of a light rain on the blue tarp that over hung the cluster of cardboard boxes, which myself and other college students would call our homes for the evening. That light rain then turned into a downpour, with the raindrops finding their way to the holes in the tarp then like a waterfall flooding out beds.
Moans, groans and the sound of chattering teeth from those wet, cold and shivering then echoed through box city. Curled up in my sleeping bag trying to stay dry and warm, I could not help but think back to the films on homelessness shown earlier, the guest speaker from the Rutland County Housing Coalition and the mock soup kitchen. The night would be restless, mainly due to the thoughts of those who must experience such things as this every day and night.
I had not eaten since breakfast and while standing in line for soup I imagined what it would be like to be eating for the first time in days. Imagining that extreme hunger I felt guilty going back for seconds when we were told there was plenty of soup left over. I mean, how many soup kitchens have enough food for the homeless to have seconds?
While I gnawed on a piece of bread, the guest speaker began her speech, talking about her own experience with homelessness as her young boy played silently on the couch. He too had experienced homelessness. She spoke of the struggles and how she now helps to make a difference for those who are experiencing what she did.
The films we watched showed faces of those in Rutland and all over the state of Vermont facing homelessness, as well as those helping at food shelves helping to make a difference. The sound of a homeless father’s whimpering and tears ran through my mind, ran through my head while the box I slept in became soggier and I grew colder. He had lost his children to foster homes because he could not care for them.
Those films brought to life the statistics on the blue paper given to me at registration, they now had faces.
Four thousand people are homeless in the state of Vermont at some point each year and last year 767 Vermont children spent one or more nights in a homeless shelter.
These are only Vermont statistics. Why some people think homelessness doesn’t happen here is beyond me. I knew it was here in Vermont, but the box city helped open my eyes to its prevalence. As snow begins to fall outside as I write this, I realize that the discomfort I and others experienced the night of box city was nothing compared to those on the streets during the coldest nights in Vermont. Most people complain about having to go outside to warm up their car when it’s below zero.
Imagine sleeping in it.
This was the first box city at Castleton and I hope the first of many. Although the drunk that walked by in the early hours of the morning is right, yelling that “the homeless don’t have tarps,” I hope more students realize that through the box city they can get a taste of what it’s like, and trust me, it’s enough to encourage you to think about everything you are blessed with. It hurt to hear someone say, “I don’t feel bad for them, they chose it.”
Let me tell you, very few choose to be homeless, and by participating in box city you’ll understand a part of the reason why.