A night without shelter

Juneau students sleep in boxes to raise homeless awareness

Posted: Monday, November 09, 2009

They made shelters out of cardboard boxes and duct tape. They warmed themselves around a fire. Earlier that night, they'd held signs reading "Everyone should have a home" and "Honk for the Homeless." And at night, they curled up in their sleeping bags and slept until 6 a.m. Sunday morning, when the lights at the covered basketball court at Riverbend Elementary School switched on. They took down the shelters and went home.

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Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

The 20 or so members of the Juneau-Douglas High School and Thunder Mountain High School Interact Clubs - Rotary International-sponsored clubs for youth ages 14 to 18 - weren't homeless. But with their annual homeless sleepout, what they aim to accomplish is to raise money and awareness for those who are.

"It makes me feel good because I know a lot of people that are homeless teens," Thunder Mountain junior and Interact President Sheryce Marshall said.

Each student who participated in the sleepout contributed or raised a minimum of $35, and two philanthropic Safeway shoppers contributed a combined total of $40 when they saw the youths, JDHS Interact President Mariel Enriquez said. Some students solicited donations prior to the event.

Fundraising will continue until December, but so far, the students have raised several hundred dollars, which will be split evenly between the Juneau School District's program for homeless youths and the Glory Hole's food box program.

The school district last year identified 165 students as homeless. So far this year, it has identified 75.

Dixie Weiss, faculty advisor for the JDHS Interact Club, said in past years, the group has raised between $600 and $1,200 with the event.

"I'm proud of our kids," Weiss said. "It's kids helping kids ... they don't just do the minimum."

"It's cold," said Kelli Menze, secretary for JDHS Interact. "It's nice, though. It makes you realize how fortunate you are and how caring the community can be when you get together."

• Contact Mary Catharine Martin at maryc.martin@juneauempire.com.

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