GVBoxCity to help students gain perspective on homelessness

Samantha Butcher

Grand Valley State University’s service and advocacy groups are starting the year off with a bang with GVBoxCity, which will raise awareness of Grand Rapids’ homeless community while also raising funds.

The overnight event, which will be held Sept. 9 and 10, will give students the experience of a night spent without a roof over their heads. BoxCity will kick off at 6 p.m. in the Pere Marquette room with a meal and panel of speakers, which will include a woman who received a house from Habitat for Humanity and a representative from the Grand Rapids Area Coalition to End Homelessness.

Participants will move outside to the field located between the Performing Arts Center and the Murray-VanSteeland Living Centers for the night at 9 p.m.

Throughout the night, participants will be able to make donations, which will benefit Grand Rapids-area homeless shelters. In addition to monetary donations, students can bring cans that organizations can redeem for deposits or non-perishable food items.

“Experiences like this don’t happen very often at Grand Valley,” said Molly Barnard, president of the GVSU chapter of Amnesty International. “This opportunity will give students the chance to actually experience sleeping outside in a cardboard box for a night, which is better than what some of our community’s homeless has to sleep in.”

Barnard helped organize the event along with Aaron Ducharme, former Habitat for Humanity president, and Caitlin Stoltman, Alternative Breaks’ fundraising chair.

BoxCity originated as a collaboration between GVSU service and advocacy groups Habitat for Humanity, Amnesty International, Alternative Breaks and the Hunger and Homelessness club, but it has since grown to include the College Democrats, College Republicans, Alpha Sigma Tau and Alpha Sigma Alpha.

“The program’s goal is to educate on the realities of homelessness and raise money to help the fight against homelessness,” Ducharme said. “Also, it is giving a way for people to get involved and meet other people who are like them.”

Ducharme said he hopes the event will also help combat the stereotypes associated with homelessness.

For Barnard, the event’s appeal was in its relation to Amnesty International’s Demand Dignity campaign, which focuses on housing as a human right.

“Every person deserves to have a home,” Barnard said. “This is a great way to bring the whole Grand Valley community together for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

In case of rain, the outdoor portion of the event may be moved or postponed. For more information, look up GVBoxCity on Facebook or email [email protected]

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