Students will go ‘inside the box’ to benefit the homeless

Even as the nights get colder, some Iowa Central Community College students are planning to sleep outside with just a box for shelter.

The third annual “Think Inside the Box” event will be Nov. 1 to raise awareness for homelessness.

Money will also be raised for the Beacon of Hope men’s shelter.

“They’ll make cardboard houses, there will be some music, and Eric (Howard) and I will probably be singing a song or two and talking about the Beacon,” said Steve Roe, shelter director .

The event is organized by students from Bonita Harold’s social sciences classes.

“The first year we raised over $3,000, and last year we raised a little over $6,000,” Harold said. “This year we’re hoping to at least do that. It depends on the economy and everything.”

Students will be out at the street corners near Target during the weekends before the event, she said, raising money.

Harold looks at this as a service learning project.

“They’re able to take what they’re learning as far as concepts, instead of just learning definitions and actually get out,” said Harold. “Let’s get out and experience it.”

Sleeping out is good, but even more importantly, the students come and learn about the shelter, Roe said.

“Every student has been on a tour of the shelter. I’ve spoken to every single class,” he said. “They find out how we run it, see who the people are who are homeless. A lot of people have formed opinions about who are the homeless.”

That night will be cold, Harold said, though the forecast no longer calls for snow and sleet.

“It gives the students also a keen awareness because you’re miserable out there,” she said. “And we know in the back of our mind it will be over. At 5 o’clock, 5:30 you can go get some coffee, or hot chocolate and crawl into bed.

“The main thing we’ve really learned as we’ve experienced this is just to say, that’s got to be so devastating to not even have that thought, that this is going to be over.”

There’s a lot more to it than just building boxes. Students in each class become officers to keep things organized, she said. The students are then responsible for canvassing, getting donations from businesses, friends and family.

The Beacon of Hope is a faith-based ministry and receives no government funding.

“Our needs are always great,” said Roe. “This money probably will go for our elevator.

“Our elevator is now shut down, the inspector came. They’re going to mark it ‘dormant’ if we don’t have it fixed by Nov. 14. Right now we don’t have that money in our budget to do that.”

It will likely cost $15,000 to fix the elevator, he said.

“We have a lot of guys who need to use the elevator, who have breathing problems,” Roe said. “We have one guy that’s on the lung transplant list.”