Although it's become an annual occurrence, an event held this week on the campus of Northern Michigan University deserves note, especially given that another long, hard Upper Peninsula winter beckons.
"Hidden City Sleep-Out: An Event to Raise Awareness for Homelessness," took place on the university's academic mall Tuesday and Wednesday. In a nutshell, a "cardboard city" was constructed by NMU students, structures that were judged based on a trio of categories: most creative, most functional and largest.
Each team provided either 10 canned goods or a $10 entry fee, with the St. Vincent dePaul Society in Marquette receiving the proceeds.
The students were required to sleep overnight in the structures. In case anyone was wondering, it dropped down into the 30s Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. And please don't forget the bit of rain mixed with snow that fell.
Here's the point. Although it's harder to see in the Upper Peninsula in general and Marquette in particular, homelessness is a problem in this area. Ask people associated with the successful Room at the Inn program, which provides shelter and food for homelessness people. Ask police officers, who are often called when homelessness people are found sleeping in cars, buildings and elsewhere.?Ask anyone associated with the local courts system how often homelessness - and indeed poverty - plays a role in cases they see.
What can you do? Donate generously to local food panties is one effective thing. So is getting involved with programs such as Room at the Inn is something else. And perhaps, as much as anything, understand as these NMU students do, that homelessness is a problem here, too. We all must do what we can to help.
Congratulations to the NMU students for taking on such a worthwhile project.