Students learn lessons the hard way during homelessness simulation events

Student participants in MCC-Blue River’s One Homeless Day waited in line at a makeshift soup kitchen for lunch.

More than 150 MCC-Blue River students participated Wednesday in One Homeless Day, a simulation experience designed to raise awareness of the epidemic of homelessness in our community.

After voluntarily locking up cell phones and skipping morning showers, students donned grubby clothes and built shelters from boxes and tarps, huddling together for warmth on the chilly fall morning. Many tried to qualify for a bed in a homeless shelter, panhandled, ate lunch at an outdoor soup kitchen and journaled about their experiences.

At a post-event debriefing session, many of the students spoke of the profound impact the day had on their personal perspectives on homelessness. Some noted that when they had very little, sharing the little they had with comrades in the same situation seemed natural. Others talked about the feeling of being judged negatively by others and the low self-worth they felt, even though the homeless situation was temporary and based on an alternate persona, not their own life story.

The event was organized by Cynthia Heddlesten, MCC-Blue River sociology instructor, and a team of students, faculty and staff, with assistance from Synergy Services, a local not-for-profit agency working to end homelessness and domestic violence in our community. The Independence Examiner published this story about the event.

Students at MCC-Longview also participated last week in One Homeless Day and then in One Homeless Night, a similar experience held overnight on the campus on Friday.

As a way of moving beyond awareness to action, students participating in each of the simulations raised money to support Synergy Services’ efforts to stem the tide of youth homelessness.