Event aims to raise awareness of problems associated with homelessness

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Gabrielle Lepe, a radio-TV-film major, decorates a box during last year's Box City event (Daily Titan file photo)
A student decorates a box during last year’s Box City event (Daily Titan file photo)

For the second year, the Family Promise of Orange County and students in the Cal State Fullerton Master of Social Work program will attempt to raise awareness about the plight of homeless people with the Box City event.

More than 100 Master of Social Work students, along with Family Promise of Orange County, an organization that works to aid homeless families by providing shelter, food and help finding long-term stability, organized the event, which will take place Thursday.

During Box City, the students will create, decorate and spend the night in makeshift cardboard shelters on campus to simulate homeless living.

The most recent survey available, taken in 2013 by the Point in Time Orange County, an organization that tracks statistics on homelessness in Orange County, found around 12,700 people were homeless over the course of a year in Orange County.

The same organization found that, on any given night, there are around 4,300 homeless people in the county.

As a community partner agency, Family Promise of Orange County is part of a national organization that’s been spreading homeless awareness with the Box City event for about 10 years in the surrounding communities.

Box City is a hands-on activity for social work students, and helps implement classroom curriculum into real world situations, said Caroline E. Bailey, Ph.D., an associate professor of social work.

Students have pledged to reach a goal of $10,000 in monetary and goods donations, including clothing, food, gift cards and other necessities that come from the community’s help, said Nicole Macias, a Master of Social Work student.

The inaugural 2014 Box City event raised around $10,000 in donations and another $10,000 in goods donations to benefit homeless people.

“As life becomes more and more expensive the homeless population rises as well. And as this population is seen as undesired or a nuisance they need passionate people like the MSW students to bring upon awareness so further change can happen,” Macias said.

The day after the event, Family Promise of Orange County will distribute supplies to the homeless community by providing basic necessities as they raise funds and donations from the event, said Erica Nargizian of Family Promise of Orange County.

“The disbursement event is an event where individuals who are in need with low income or individuals experiencing homelessness can come here to Family Promise and receive clothing items, food items, hiking items and resources,” Nargizian said.

The event is a semester-long project for the Master of Social Work students, who work with the Master of Social Work Student Association to put on the event.

During the planning for the event, students divide into teams and committees to take on different tasks needed to put on the event, including meal preparation, fundraising and networking, Macias said.

The event aims to raise awareness of the struggles of the multiple facets of the homeless community, Bailey said, and not only those most visible to passersby.

“We absolutely need to raise awareness, not only on our campus but in our community regarding the needs of individuals experiencing homelessness, not only as it pertains to groups that are highly visible such as chronic and persistently homeless individuals, but as it pertains to other groups such as veterans, families and even students on our campus,” she said.

Cardboard boxes are donated from various organizations around the community to help supply the students with ample amounts of materials to configure the makeshift shelters, she added.

After Box City is deconstructed the boxes will be recycled and any unused materials will be donated to Family Promise of the South Bay in Torrance.

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