(Alpharetta-AP)—A Georgia church is trying to raise awareness about homelessness by encouraging teenagers to experience it for themselves.
Kat Doyle, youth minister at Saint Brendan Catholic Community Church in Cumming, says it’s important for teens to learn that homelessness is not only an urban problem but also exists in more affluent, suburban communities.
To see how the homeless live, Doyle had about 50 teenagers who attend the church camp out last night in a parking lot of a grocery store in Alpharetta and pretend to be homeless. They could bring a blanket and extra clothes, but little else. No food or drink was allowed.
One of the participants, 14-year-old Kim Mackie, slept in a cardboard box.
The teens spent the afternoon asking shoppers if they could spare any food or clothing. The items will be donated to local charities that serve the homeless.
No, those kids did NOT experience homelessness. They had a youth group camp-out in a nice neighborhood. It was a mild night in a Georgia spring. They had blankets and clothing. It is highly likely that they had pocket money, as well. They had a chance to bathe in their own homes before going on their “camp out,” and probably had full bellies. They had their friends and youth minister with them. They were in good health, or their parents wouldn’t have allowed them to go.
They were not alone, hungry, cold, dirty, sick, or tired. They weren’t wearing clothes that didn’t fit or for which they had to scrounge. They had nice shoes with no holes in the soles. They didn’t have anybody trying to hustle them into a stable. They didn’t get knocked around or hassled by police or anyone else. Nobody was mugged or raped, right? They almost certainly had permission to be there in that parking lot, and to solicit for donations—or the store manager would have had them removed.
I wouldn’t send my child out to truly experience homelessness—there’s a reason we pay the rent and utilities and all regularly, you know? But neither would I have her participate in a farce and think that she then knew what homelessness was like.