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Box city hits JCU

February 24th, 2011

Think dorm life is bad? Try sleeping in a box for one night in the frigid Cleveland weather, and see how long you last. John Carroll’s Labre Project is doing just that. This Friday, Feb. 25, an event called “Boxed Out” will kick off in the Rodman Chapel. More than 25 students have already volunteered for this event, in which they will sleep on the quad in cardboard boxes to simulate what thousands of homeless people in Cleveland experience every day.

“Boxed Out” is the brainchild of junior SaraJane Kukawka, who implemented the project as her senior capstone for the Arrupe Scholars Program. Kukawka described it as an “awareness blitz” to help people realize the realities of homelessness occurring in our own city.

In a background study prepared for Housing First, the Levin College at Cleveland State University estimated that the homeless population of Cuyahoga County most likely ranged between 12,546 and 18,122 persons per year.

While recruiting for the project, Kukawka was met with a lot of hesitation and “Won’t it be kind of cold?” remarks, to which she responded, “Oh yeah, trust and believe, people sitting out there already know.”

Kukawka has a pretty good idea herself, as a part of the Labre Project, who venture into downtown Cleveland every Friday, regardless of the weather, to do homeless ministry.

Kukawka’s inspiration for “Boxed Out” was drawn from these trips, where she and other members of Labre witnessed firsthand the perils of homelessness, especially in this cold climate. Moved by what she saw, including people living under bridges, she felt the need to spread awareness, and what better way to do that than experiencing it firsthand for a night?

The Labre Project is providing refrigerator boxes and tarps for those who are going to partake in “Boxed Out.” There will also be a barrel fire, but in the spirit of making the experience as realistic as possible, the participants are going to have to build and maintain the fire throughout the night. The volunteers are asked to bring as little as possible to get them through the night, in order to represent one of the most challenging aspects of homelessness – having only enough belongings that you can carry quickly from place to place.

Although the boxed village concept is not new to the University, Kakawka says that she wants to offer this opportunity to students who might not have been around for it a couple years ago. She stresses the importance of bonding that the experience will bring about, as well as a sense of reflection upon the struggles that accompany homelessness. For the active members of Labre who have directly witnessed homelessness on their weekly trips downtown to offer food and friendship to the homeless, this event is a chance to connect at an even deeper level.

At the heart of the project is a simple goal, as stated on the flyer for the mission, “Sleep in a box one night, for those who sleep in one every night.”