Box City lends hand to homeless

For 18 hours, 40 University students lived without running water, electricity or the Internet as they spent the night outside in cardboard boxes in the newly established “box city” near the steps of the Saddlemire building.

Box City, sponsored by Habitat for Humanity, has been put on every spring for the past five years. President Diane Schwab, a junior business management major, said the event acts as a fundraiser for the organization and also brings awareness to the fact that so many families live on so much less than the average college student.

“I think it’s really good for the students to get an idea about how to live without these so-called amenities,” Schwab said. “Even if it is only for one night.”

The event, which lasted from Saturday afternoon until yesterday morning, may be the most visible one that is sponsored by Habitat for Humanity, but not the group’s most important.

Every year the organization makes three trips a year to build homes for the organization.

This year members traveled to Kentucky, Texas and Florida to build homes for deserving families in the area.

Debran Brown, a member of one of the families helped by Habitat for Humanity, told participants her story while she visited the box city Saturday.

Brown is a Toledo native and an owner of a Habitat House.

Brown’s house was built in June 2006, and since then she said her life has completely changed.

“It has just been such a enormous change for me and my family,” she said. “My kids are in a better school district now, we live in a nice neighborhood, I don’t have to worry about traffic,” Brown said. “Now I have so much more pride. Because this is ours, I can leave my kids something. I just have a lot of pride now. Not only in my house but in my life.”

Before June of last year, Brown and her four children, ranging in age from 6 to 20, lived in inner-city Toledo where Brown worked as an Employment Specialist for the company BRIDGES.

Brown originally was introduced to the program when she went with a client. When she walked into the Habitat for Humanity office she didn’t have any intention of signing up herself for the program.

“When I went I wasn’t there for myself. I didn’t even think I would qualify,” Brown said.

At the insistence of another employee Brown picked up an application for herself and filled it out after it sat at her desk for two weeks.

“I never thought I would be selected. I thought that you had to be unemployed and starving to qualify,” Brown said. “There were over 2,000 families and only seven houses were built, somehow thanks to the awesome power of the Lord we were selected.”

The Brown’s house was built in a blitz, where contractors came into a neighborhood and built seven houses in seven days for selected families. The family has been living there for almost a year and Brown said she is thankful for every day.

Here in Bowling Green, students were given duct tape and boxes of all sizes to construct their own houses.

After the boxes are built there is time to play Frisbee until 3 a.m. and just lounge around in the boxes talking.

Terry Streetman, junior, has been involved in Box City for four years.

“I love the whole thing. From building the boxes to destroying the city in the morning,” Streetman said. “It is such a good thing and so much fun I hope they do it two times a year from now on. Everyone should do this.”