MARQUETTE - A visit to Northern Michigan University's academic mall this morning offered an unusual sight - a temporary city of cardboard homes scattered around the grounds.
"Hidden City Sleep-Out: An Event to Raise Awareness for Homelessness" began Tuesday night with groups of students constructing cardboard homes, and finished up this morning, with judging. In order to be eligible for judging, each team must have had at least two members sleep overnight in their cardboard home.
"This is one of those events where, even before we put the event on, we have people asking about it," said Drew Janego, president of the NMU College Democrats, which hosts the annual event. "They feel good about it, with the donations of canned goods and, in general, of cash. It's just a good feeling for college students to give back to the community."
A cardboard home constructed as a part of Northern Michigan University’s annual sleep-out is pictured. Students built and slept in cardboard homes Tuesday night on Northern’s academic mall to help raise awareness about homelessness in the Marquette area. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
To enter the contest, every team must have provided either 10 canned goods or $10 in cash as an entry fee. All proceeds will be donated to the St. Vincent De Paul Society of Marquette.
"We're always proud to put it on because it shows awareness for college students about homelessness and giving back to the community," Janego said. "We've been able to do a lot of good."
The homes, made entirely of cardboard, were judged this morning in three different categories: most creative, most functional and largest.
Janego said homelessness is a problem for every city across the country, and he hopes this event will remind people that Marquette is not an exception to the rule.
"It's a problem everywhere. I don't think the U.P. or Marquette are excluded from that problem," Janego said. "Any time you have people who can't afford to have a roof over their head or can't afford to feed their families, that's an issue that needs to be looked at and taken into consideration. I'm sure Marquette is no different than a lot of other places in the United States in terms of people falling into the poverty level that need to have their voices heard."
NMU sophomore Troy Morris, who participated in the event agreed, saying it was important to help bring more attention to the issue on a local level.
"I did it to raise awareness about the homeless in Marquette," Morris said. "Even though we're not in a big city there is still homeless people and awareness needs to be raised."
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.