On Nov. 18, 2020, McNick students had the opportunity to participate in a virtual Shantytown.
Although Shantytown is normally held in person and known to involve students sleeping in cardboard boxes on campus, this year it was moved online as a result of the Coronavirus.
“The [Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless] actually had reached out before we even started planning…they offered these six virtual programs and that set everything in motion. The three that we chose were Homelessness 101, a personal witness by someone who has experienced homelessness, and an Over-the-Rhine virtual tour,” Theology teacher Teresa Davis said.
The virtual sessions took place over the span of five hours, which may seem to be a long time, but some thought that it offered more depth of learning. Davis expressed a desire to implement the virtual sessions as a prerequisite even once it is possible to have Shantytown in person again.
“Five hours is a long time…but I’ll be honest, I can’t see us going forward without using this as a preliminary tool. It’s going to have to be a must have prior to sleeping on the lawn,” Davis said.
Though it looked different this year, many of the students involved still found Shantytown to be an educational experience.
“I think Shantytown was a very eye opening experience. We not only went over statistics to help our minds understand, but we also got to hear an incredible speaker share their story and message which helped our hearts understand as well,” sophomore Gia Guessford said.
“The most impactful thing to me was our guest speaker, Melissa’s, story about how she’s experienced homelessness. It really gave me a point of view on how [being homeless] feels and how it’s not easy to come out of,” sophomore Julia Hart said. Although McNick was not able to hold Shantytown in person, there were still valuable lessons being conveyed, and students came away with a better understanding of homelessness.
“I learned a lot…there isn’t one definitive route to becoming homeless…it’s a lot of different things that can come up, and a lot of them most people can’t stop or predict. People should be more understanding of the fact that nobody chooses to be in the situations that the homeless are in,” senior Isabella Bonner said.