Millikin University's Human Service Connection and the Macon County Continuum hosted its annual Box City event in support of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week on Nov. 11 on the Miller Quad. The event was part of Millikin's campaign to help bring hunger and homelessness awareness to the local community.
As part of Box City, Millikin students spent the evening outside in cardboard boxes to simulate an accurate perspective on homelessness. However, this year the Human Service Connection and the Macon County Continuum of Care took the experience to the next level by requiring participants to go through different simulations of homelessness.
"This year, Box City added some new installments to help make it a heavy experience for the individual," said Ben Viette, a junior human services and theatre double major from Belvidere, Ill. "As a group we created scenarios based on individuals who actually go through homelessness on a daily basis."
Brian Wilhelm, a senior human services major from Decatur, Ill., and a member of Millikin's Human Service Connection, shared statistics from the annual Point-in-Time Survey of the Decatur-area's homeless population showing that it reached 255 two years ago and had dropped to 157 in January of 2016.
"The key for the Human Service Connection is community involvement," said Viette. "As a community we can work together to raise awareness."
More than 70 residents of this year's Box City event heard from two former homeless people.
"I have a passion for individuals who are marginalized – specifically looking at individuals in poverty and homelessness," said Dr. Mary Garrison, associate professor of social work at Millikin. "This is a way for us to come together and think about the social issues in our community and our world."
On Saturday, Nov. 12, Box City participants walked to Salvation Army to take part in a program on homelessness presented by the Men's Emergency Shelter.
George Rushing II, a senior vocal music education major from O'Fallon, Mo., said, "For one moment you get a little glimpse into how other people have to live. What warms me is the support and fellowship amongst all of us."
During National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week, Millikin's Human Service Connection will collect food donations for the Big Blue Backpacks program everyday on Millikin's Arrival Court from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Only non-perishable food items will be accepted.
Big Blue Backpacks is a new Millikin University student-run organization seeking to help alleviate childhood hunger. A partner of the Good Samaritan Inn, the Big Blue Backpacks organization feeds nutritious, nonperishable food items to needy students at Dennis Lab School every weekend for the entire school year.
National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is held each year the week before Thanksgiving. It is a time to share our compassion with our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness. This year, National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is held Nov. 12-20.