From his bed inside a cardboard box, David Huizinga is getting a different view of what it is like to be homeless.
The teen was just one of about 10 members of the Wyoming Baptist Church Youth Group who spent the night, homeless, in McKay Park. Youth Group leader Michelle Gingrich says the teens expected to take part in the 30 Hour Famine event Saturday but when they arrive at church they were loaded into cars and taken to the park and told they would be homeless for the weekend.
Gingrich says the teens were told to hand over phones, homework – everything but the clothes on their back. “They balked at it a little – ‘I’m not doing that. I’m not sleeping outside!’ We took some time to get out the door because some of the teens kept trying to take things with them.”
They left eventually and once they got to the park, they began building their new homeless life. They went around town to find things to build their shelters for the night.
Huizinga, still using crutches from a recent foot operation, hobbled around town to find a couple of cardboard boxes. He was given a sleeping bag and on the clear night only the mosquitoes will bother him while he sleeps outside for the night.
While Huizinga is surrounded by friends now, he says it had been a long day and he’s sure it would be a lot different if was on his own. “It’s already been a long day – a super, super long day – I can’t imagine what it would be like to be all alone.”
And while Huizinga has to imagine the idea of being homeless, others in his group are more familiar with the concept. Caitlyn Essery helped Ashlyn Hordyk, Danielle Schuilenberg and Kenzie Klazinga build their tent with blue tarps and picnic tables.
For Essery, the homelessness awareness exercise is too familiar. For a while, her family didn’t have a home of their own. “There were 10 people in a two-bedroom house with one bathroom,” she says. “They made an extra bedroom in the garage and my family was in a trailer – it got really cold in the winter.”
But Essery and her friends were doing well late into the evening. The girls agree that even the smallest things can be frustrating when you’re hungry.
“I saw how people just dumped out food,” says Schuilenberg. She found cereal dumped out on the sidewalk and it frustrated her. “Are you kidding me? We could have eaten that? I’m hungry and you’re getting rid of that?”
From his box home, Huizinga agrees the homeless experience has helped “put things in perspective.
“It makes you realize what you have.”