KING’S COLLEGE, WILKES-BARRE (WBRE/WYOU) — “On any given night in the united states, nearly 600,000 people are experiencing homelessness and possibly out on the streets. Here in Luzerne county that number is about 160 people per night,” Kelly Gibbons, Community Outreach and Social Justice Program Coordinator at King’s College, said.
If you walked through King’s College’s campus today you might have seen a red van parked outside of Holy Cross Hall. It’s the location of the ‘Overnight Homelessness Solidarity Experience’, part of King’s College’s ‘Hunger for Justice Week’. It’s a way to raise awareness for homelessness and hunger.
“People that are experiencing homelessness and are in these situations are often overlooked,” Gibbons said.
“People don’t realize how close to home these issues lie. We actually did a walking tour of Wilkes-Barre in, I think it was our second class this semester. And we actually walked around and got to see just how close these issues are to campus. And you don’t have to go very far to witness these issues,” Taylor Rudy, a senior at King’s College, said.
Students volunteered to sit in the van in shifts, from 12pm on Monday to 7:30pm Tuesday night as a way to represent the challenges faced by those experiencing homelessness. In the van are essentials: a couple blankets, a sleeping bag, a flashlight, and a couple of hand warmers as well. This is Taylor Rudy’s first year participating in the event.
“I don’t really know what to expect. I definitely think it’s going to be cold. But I also think it’s a great opportunity and get the smallest little taste of what some people live in on a daily basis. And it doesn’t compare,” Rudy said.
The overnight homelessness solidarity event began twenty years ago. Organizers say students originally sat outside in boxes.
“What the experience used to be, used to be 60 hour experience in a box. That is something that happens nationally for programs as well.And we used to have a large box that would be set out. But being November, the weather is really bad, and it would usually rain. It just was difficult to use,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons started in her position last year and changed the tradition from a box to a van.
“I had been doing some research and found that a trend is happening across the united states that a lot of people that are experiencing homelessness are living out of their cars. So we decided to use the van as a symbolic representation of that,” Gibbons said.
After the overnight homelessness solidarity experience ends on Tuesday, there will be a candlelit vigil in honor of the people who lost their lives when they have been experiencing homelessness and and living on the streets in Wilkes-Barre.