Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Student Social Work Organization spends a night in boxes

Friday, March 10, 2017
Participants try to get some sleep through the night.
Photo by Shane Burke

The Student Social Work Organization at Southeast Missouri State University hosted a “Sleep in a Box” event to raise awareness of homelessness in Cape Girardeau. The event went from 6 p.m. March 3 to 10 a.m. March 4 in front of Kent Library.

“Some of our members met a few people downtown and got to know them, listened to their stories and really had a heart for what they were going through in their lives,” Jacy Lukefahr, vice president of the Student Social Work Organization, said. “We were really curious in how to help them in the ways that we could.”

Lukefahr explained all donations were going to Community Caring Council, since there is no homeless shelter in Cape Girardeau.

Senior Shelby Melton brought the idea to the club after speaking to her sister, who participated in a similar event at McKendree University in Lebanon, Illinois. Melton said she has participated in similar events such as Project Homeless, which aims to provide necessities annually to those in need.

For junior Alyssa Wood, the issue was much closer than a one-night event.

“One of the events that I had to endure was a time of homelessness with my family,” she said. “My family would sneak into the parks at night and we would wake up early enough in the morning to get out of the parks so we wouldn’t get arrested or in trouble.”

Wood said this is what motivates her to pursue social work.

“We’ve all gone through something,” she said. “We all have our experience and that fuels why we want to do certain things. Especially in a field like social work or any helping field, you have some experience that fuels your desire to help other people.”

Senior Darris Whitehead participated in the event and was able to reflect on his experience in the morning.

“The fact that we’re doing this is more of a statement that we’re trying to make rather than us actually showing what a homeless person goes through,” he said. “We don’t know. I’ve never been homeless to a point where I have to sleep out in the cold or in the heat.”

Whitehead reflected on the contrast between the event happening at a university and real people living this daily on the streets.

“If we were to take this outside of the institution and go somewhere else, we have no idea what that would be like,” Whitehead said. “It’s so cold out, but these people have to deal with this every single day.”

Whitehead commented on the unsureness of future homelessness.

“I know this isn’t something I would want to go through in my future, but who knows when this is in their future,” he said. “I’m pretty sure no homeless person said, ‘Five years ago, I knew I was going to be homeless.’”

The event garnered a large turnout, at one point having up to 15 participants.