Thursday, March 26, 2009

Homeless 101

Seattle Pacific students spend 5 days on streets to feel pain of homeless

Eighteen Seattle Pacific University students spent their spring break living as if they were homeless, as part of the private, Christian college's experiential "urban plunge" program.

Google the words "spring break" and up pop images of bikinis, beaches, more bikinis, and margaritas.

That couldn't be further from the experience this week of 18 Seattle Pacific University students. They chose to spend their spring break on the streets of Seattle living as if they were homeless, as part of the school's experiential "urban plunge" program.

For these students, spring break was all about long johns and layers, Dumpster diving and wandering.

Sophomore Sarah Long said she spoke to dozens of homeless people over the five days and was struck that every single one had plans to find housing and jobs.

SPU student Mike Zetterberg rolls in dirt to make his clothes more soiled before he sits on the sidewalk with other students to ask for money.

"It's heartbreaking," she said. "They are not willing to resign themselves to staying on the streets, but they are also not taking the actions they need to get off the streets. ... It's hard to know how to solve it, it's just so complex."

Urban plunge has been running more than 20 years and is one of several ways in which faculty and students at the small, private Christian college attempt to confront issues like materialism and public service.

Other students have formed a club in which they try to live in an ascetic manner — wearing no shoes on certain days, even during December's snowstorms. One student gave up his apartment to live in a van.

No comments: