Concerned Students Sleep Outside to Raise Awareness about Poverty

Last thursday night, 55 UVM students braved the first snow of the year to spend the night in cardboard boxes on the CBW green. ‘Box City’ was an event organized by Americorp members, UVM volunteers, and The Committe on Temporary Shelter (COTS) to raise awareness about homelessness as part of Homelessness and Hunger awareness week.

In the afternoon, students were invited to decorate a box for the night. Kari Anderson, a UVM volunteer, called appliance stores in S. Burlington and Colchester to get the boxes, but also admitted to “dumpster diving” for


Allison Curran, another UVM volunteer, was the communication coordinator for the event. “UVM definitely responded,” said Allison, “It is bigger than we hoped.” Students got involved in the event for a variety of reasons.

Alex Cruz, an RA in Harris Millis, said that he decided to participate in the box city after talking to the leaders because he was “relatively unaware [about] homelessness.”

Melinda Atkinson, the UVM Americorp Vista, was the main coordinator for the event, and got it approved by Student Life. There have been box cities at other colleges run by Americorp Vistas (Vista is the poverty branch of Americorps), but this was the first time it has been done at UVM. Student Life sponsored the event along with Chittenden Residence Hall that sponsored the soup kitchen, some other food was donated and the outing club provided sleeping bags.

The evening included lectures by two speakers from COTS about the reality of homelessness in burlington and an outdoor discussion on what is poverty and the causes of poverty, led by Rachel Wells of Vermont Campus Compact and Meredith Billings, an Americorp vista.

“We all have different views on poverty, [it has] an ambiguous definition,” said Curran. Anderson agreed, “Some see it as the extreme, living without a home, some people see it as not living comfortably.”

The discussion included a minor debate over whether or not “laziness” belonged on the list as one of the causes of poverty.

Jonah Tidyman, brought the discussion home to UVM, “One of the biggest areas of study here is community based study, you can’t understand communities without understanding all the parts, and homelessness is a part of that,” said Tidyman.

In addition to raising awareness about homelessness, the event also raised a little over $100 that will be donated to COTS to help provide shelter for the winter.