Student-built Cardboard City focuses attention on homelessness

Vanguard photo | Pakeitha Oldham
Vanguard photo | Pakeitha Oldham

To bring more awareness to homelessness, students took to the Rotunda to build cardboard shelters to kick off the upcoming SVSU chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

Construction on the Cardboard City began at 5 p.m., and despite the last minute change of location to inside the Rotunda due to rain, the demonstration was already getting the conversation going.

“I think a lot of people are just unaware, because we live in a little bubble where we have everything that we need,” said Sarah Lewan, a member of the new group. “It’s really important to expose our students to the issues around us.”

According to Riley Hupfer, who will be the president of the registered student organization when it becomes officially recognized, there are over 1,500 people in the Saginaw area who are homeless. Around 36 percent of people in Saginaw are below the poverty line.

“I think what’s important about this is just trying to get people in the mindset of ‘What can I do to help other people?’” Hupfer said. “Just being a human, taking care of each other and getting rid of the stigma.”

The event was hosted by Student Life to help celebrate World Habitat Day. All students who attended the event were asked to donate a non-perishable food item.

Students who participated were encouraged to stop eating after their lunch to simulate the lack of food that a homeless individual experiences. They also watched a documentary called “Lost Angels: Skid Row Is My Home,” which documents the homeless population in Los Angeles, Calif.

Attendees will be sleeping in the shelters they built overnight to add to the simulation.

“Where I come from, which is up north, you don’t see homelessness as much because we aren’t an urban community. Once I moved down here, I’ve seen people on the street corner begging for money, so this pays respects to them,” said senior Eddie Veenstra. “It’s a shame we can’t go outside in the rain, though, to see what they are really living like.”

The SVSU chapter of Habitat for Humanity will soon be an official RSO, with Jason Schoenmeyer, associate director of Student Life, serving as the adviser. The SVSU chapter will be partnering up with the Saginaw/Shiawassee affiliate of Habitat for Humanity.

Habitat for Humanity has come to campus many times to give students chances to assist in charitable efforts, and now with the SVSU chapter, the RSO plans to organize students more effectively and have a continued partnership with the local affiliate.

Freshman Jade Blair came to the event with her roommates to get more involved and to learn more. Despite the event being moved indoors, Blair felt that she would still get something out of the experience.

“People need to know that this is no way for somebody to live. They need to know that they need to help people,” Blair said. “You might have a roof to live under, but somebody doesn’t.”

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