Some students at Quincy University are camping out on the grass tonight in no more than a cardboard box. It's called "One Night without a Home", and it's goal is for the students to experience what homelessness is like.
According to the group "Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness", every night there are 750,000 men, women, and children who are homeless - and 44 percent of them are unsheltered. In Illinois, 16 percent are unsheltered. According to the same group, only a small percent of homeless people stay at emergency shelters - and many of them only stay for a short duration and don't return.
Some participants had built their three-wall, roofless cardboard box home - with an emphasis of angling it to keep out the wind. A campfire burned just a few feet away, but others said that wouldn't be enough to withstand a night in the November temperatures.
"I actually had to go back to my dorm and get warmer clothes," said Sherika Smiley.
But she had a heightened awareness that a real homeless person - wouldn't easily have been able to get those extra layers. Many participants say - they've seen homeless people in their hometowns - and have always wondered how they got in that situation. At the Salvation Army Emergency Shelter here in Quincy - manager Heidi Welty says many people who could take advantage of their services, don't.
"I'm sure that the idea of staying in a homeless shelter is scary, the fear of the unknown," she said.
She hopes students learn from this experience about appreciating their own homes - and become aware of the possible dangers of being without a place to stay.
"The list goes on. Besides the weather issues, you know - it's dangerous - you don't know who's on the street and who would - potentially - an assault or if someone wants something you've got - a lot of time homeless people go where other homeless people are, and they get pretty desperate."
Students say - they feel they'll find new empathy for those who have fallen on hard times.
Throughout the week there will also be a Toys and Blanket Drive for Toys for Tots and for the Salvation Army Emergency Shelter.
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