WILKES-BARRE — King’s College students Sarah Cease and Matthew Gorski Monday were homeless —well, they pretended to be so they could get a realistic feel of the plight of society’s down-and-outs.
Cease, 19, a sophomore mass communication major from Hunlock Creek, and Gorski, 20, a sophomore from Shavertown majoring in business management, participated in the first phase of the college’s “Hunger Awareness Week,” a national observation.
Cease and Gorski and several other King’s students will take turns for two-hour shifts of living in a cardboard box in Monarch Court. The homeless experience runs continuously for 60 hours.
“It’s definitely difficult, even if it’s a nice day like today,” Cease said. “But what if it was raining or snowing or extremely cold? That would be very scary.”
Gorski said homeless must be physically and mentally draining for those unable to find work or refuge.
“There should be a permanent shelter for men,” he said. “They should have a warm bed at night.”
Monsignor Joseph Kelly, executive director of Catholic Social Services, has been trying to establish a permanent shelter for men without success to date.
“We’re still looking for a place, but we have not yet found a place that we can afford, quite frankly,” Kelly said. “This is a terrific challenge all across the country. There are more and more people seeking help for food and housing.”
Kelly said Mother Teresa’s Haven remains active, moving homeless men from church to church a week at a time. Kelly said the churches provide space for the men to sleep and they provide meals.
Kelly said more than 400 people per day are served meals at the St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen on Jackson Street.
Cease and Gorski were huddled in the cardboard box working on school assignments. They placed a tip jar on the ground outside the box to gather donations for area homeless shelters.
Gorski said the students will keep a journal of their experience of being homeless.
“It’s a reflections journal,” he said. “We want to record what we feel and think of living on the street.”
Bill Bolan, director of the Shoval Center for Community Engagement and Learning, said the King’s events give students and the community the opportunity to learn more about the issues facing people in need and gives them a sense of their struggles.
“We call it the solidarity experience,” Bolan said. “Students tell us they can’t learn what it’s like to be homeless by spending two hours in a box. So we offer more events and programs to give them as much information as possible.”
Bolan said homeless people have approached the students and thanked them for what they are doing to get their message out to the community.
“Homeless people have told the students that they sometimes feel invisible in the community,” Bolan said. “They have thanked the students and King’s for showing some sensitivity toward the issue of homelessness.”
Bolan said the week of activities hopefully will provide a way to show the public the needs of the homeless.
“And the students have the opportunity to learn more about the homeless situation, their needs and the needs of people in the community who go hungry every day,” Bolan said.