UAFS Students Spend a Night in a Box | News
The Next Step Day Room, which is a homeless services agency, and four organizations at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith are joining forces to bring awareness locally to hunger and homelessness in the River Valley. And it’s all happening with a Cardboard Box City on Nov. 10.
Representatives from Next Step Day Room and UAFS are encouraging a big participation from the UAFS campus and from the community. How? Bring a box and spend the night. Decorate the box. Make a city. But don’t forget that “rent” has to be paid for box space, with all proceeds going to the Next Step Day Room to help provide case management services to homeless individuals.
The event -- which organizers hope will attract students, young parents with families, and senior citizens -- kicks off the beginning of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, which is Nov. 10-18.
Set up begins at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, on the Campus Green, with activities until 10 p.m. that include talks by speakers with knowledge of homelessness. An evening meal will be provided. Pack- up time is 7 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 11, with breakfast provided for participants before they leave.
Dave Stevens of Fort Smith, director of campus involvement at UAFS, said the project is an opportunity to gain insight into the daily challenges faced by the homeless.
“For most college students, the homeless and the problems they face seem like a distant reality,” Stevens said. “This project brings that reality a little closer to home.”
UAFS organizations working on the Cardboard Box City event are the Chancellor’s Leadership Council, Student Government Association, Non-Traditional Students Organization and American Democracy Project.
“With these groups helping to organize this event,” Stevens said, “I know that many of the River Valley’s future leaders will be touched by this project. My hope is that UAFS students will develop an awareness of issues impacting all members of the community and a passion to affect positive change.
Some cardboard boxes will be provided for those who do not have one, but participants are encouraged to bring their own. A prize will be awarded for the most creative box. In addition to the cardboard box, other suggested items to bring are warm clothing, sleeping bag, pad, pillow and flashlight.
Next Step Day Room interim executive director Amy Sherrill of Greenwood believes the event is important.
“This is a time when we can come together as a community to discuss the local issues facing our homeless individuals in the city who include single mothers, families with children and military veterans,” she said. “It’s also a time of reflection to remember how fortunate many of us are and how it doesn’t take much effort to provide a helping hand to others.”
“Rent” for individuals is $15. The fee for groups of three or more is $10 per person, with those with UAFS student identification paying only $5. “Rent” can be raised through pledges. The event is for all ages, but at least one adult chaperone is required for every five participants under the age of 18.
Checks may be made out to the Next Step Day Room, with Cardboard Box City written in the memo line. “Rent” money may be dropped off no later than Nov. 9 at the UAFS Student Activities Office, room 111 in the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center. Checks may be mailed no later than Nov. 7 to the Next Step Day Room, 123 N. 6th St, Suite 200, Fort Smith, AR 72901.
Participants may also call and reserve space and then pay at the event. Reservations may be made with Dan Maher, president of the Next Step Day Room board of directors, at 479-788-7572.
Maher, who teaches sociology and anthropology at UAFS and has served on the board for the past five years, believes Cardboard Box City is a worthy cause.
“When I first joined the board, I thought I had some idea of what caused homelessness and who homeless people were,” said Maher, who added that he had learned that there are many more homeless people than he had thought and many different reasons that they are homeless.
“The experience of sleeping outside in a box, coupled with the educational components to the evening, will help to give students and members of the community that participate a better understanding of why so many people in Fort Smith face the challenges of homelessness,” Maher said.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2010 annual report to Congress, each night there are approximately 770,000 people in the United States who are homeless. The U.S. Department of Education reports that there are an additional 700,000 children without a place to call home and who go to bed hungry nightly.
The Next Step Day Room, a United Way Community Partner and a Community Development Block Grant recipient, has a daytime shelter for homeless individuals. It provides a myriad of services, ranging from individual case management, hot meals, job counseling, psychological counseling, life-skills training, bicycle rentals, phone availability with after-hours messaging, mail service, budgeting classes, anger management classes and assistance with affordable housing searches.
The Day Room also has three supportive homes for homeless clients -- the Buddy Smith Home for military veterans the Esther Home for women and women with children and the Gabriel House for men.
For more information, contact Maher at 479-788-7572 or Stevens at 479-788-7696.