ordered to relocate "box city", MI students learn homeless

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Thu, 2 Apr 1998 23:52:17 -0800 (PST)



In one consciousness-raising activity, students were awakened by the Spring
Lake/Ferrysburg Police Department about 1 a.m. and were ordered to relocate
their "box city."

Monday, March 30, 1998

By Cynthia L. Miller

A lesson in homelessness for Spring Lake High School 10th-graders Friday
night raised $2,247 for the the City Rescue Mission of Muskegon.

Thirty-four students from the Class of 2000 spent the night sleeping
outdoors to learn what it's like to be homeless.

As part of a class community service project, students gathered money to
help support homeless programs at the Rescue Mission, 1691 Peck.

Sandra Baker, high school special education teacher and sophomore class
adviser, invited guests from the mission with firsthand knowledge about
homelessness to speak with students before last week's project.

Baker said the students participated in a variety of consciousness-raising
activities through the night. In one activity, students hunted for treats
that had been hidden beneath layers of messy corn, peas and broken eggs in
a garbage bin.

Students also were awakened by the Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Police Department
about 1 a.m., who ordered the students to relocate their "box city," Baker

The evening, which began at 9:30 p.m. and ended at 6 a.m., included a visit
from an "angel" who distributed blankets and peanut butter sandwiches as
well as a visit from current shelter residents who dropped by to thank
students for their concern.

Spring Lake High School Principal Mark Westerburg said he was pleased with
the students' response to the problem of homelessness.

"They were very sympathetic to the issue. It was an excellent simulation of
what it would be like. It was as realistic...as Sandra could make it,"
Westerburg said.

The intent of the project, according to Baker, was for students to learn
about the realities of homelessness.

Homelessness might develop for a number of reasons like financial
difficulties, domestic crisis, mental health problems, wrong decisions or
life controlling addictions, Rescue Mission officials told students earlier
this month.

Mission programs offer help for those core problems and also focus on
spiritual needs. Guidance is also offered in money management, job
placement, and emotional support, as well as providing a clean safe place
for people and their children. mission officials said.

The Rescue Mission, established in 1907, supports a men's and women's
shelter and recently merged with Holland missions to become Lakeshore
Rescue Mission. The new mission remains dedicated to helping homeless
people, and now reaches communities along the lakeshore.

Baker said she hopes to invite mission officials to the school to present
the no-strings-attached donation at a student assembly later this week.


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