On Oct. 25, a group of approximately 40 McNicholas seniors participated in McNick’s first ever Shantytown. To get a sense of what it is like to be homeless for a night, the students slept outside on campus in cardboard boxes with nothing but the clothes on their backs and a blanket.
The McNicholas Service Club wanted to raise awareness for the homeless by organizing Shantytown since, in the last 15 years, the homeless population inCincinnatihas increased by 150%.
Between 1,300 and 1,500 people, more than double the 640 student population at McNicholas, are homeless in Cincinnati. Of these, 25% are children. Relatively speaking, this would mean that half of McNick’s students would be sleeping on the streets.
“We hope that the participants were able to gain more insight into what it feels like to be homeless and to live in solidarity with the homeless for a night,” senior Service Club member Taylor Roberts said.
During an all-school assembly on Oct. 25, former homeless teen Lauren Lovette shared her story with the McNicholas student body about being homeless while going to high school.
The Shantytown event began that evening with guest speakers Leslie Hattemer and Rebekah Beach from Project Connect, a program that helps homeless children in Cincinnati stay in school. Participants then built their shanties using sheets of cardboard.
While eating a simple meal of vegetable soup and peanut butter and jelly, they watched The Pursuit of Happyness, a film that tells the story of a homeless father trying to raise his son on the streets. After a prayer vigil around the campfire, participants spent the night in their shanties, braving the cold and early morning rain.
Before going inside to begin their day of school, the participants ate day-old bagels and stood along Beechmont Avenue holding signs with homeless facts on them to encourage people on their way to work to stop and think about the homeless.
Roberts and senior Service Club members Jenna Heitker and Emily Forsthoefel got the idea for Shantytown from the Mayerson Service Learning Conference they attended at theUniversityofCincinnation Sept. 14.
“I think this experience helped us to better understand what people are going through. I hope we were able to help draw awareness to homelessness for people in big ways,” said Service Club moderator Sam Roflow.
“Shantytown was a success, because the rest of the school was very aware of what was going on and asked a lot of questions about it. It was a great discussion starter for the classroom,” Roflow added.