Beaver SGA to raise homelessness awareness with 'cardboard city'

MONACA, Pa. — Beginning April 16, about 20 Penn State Beaver students will build a city of cardboard boxes in downtown Beaver and live there for 48 hours, sleeping on the ground and begging for money, all in the name of homelessness awareness.

“It’s about helping people understand the world around them before they fall victim to it or become complacent,” said Student Government Association President Brianna D’Itri, who organized the event.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, more than 500,000 people experience homelessness on any given night in the U.S. People tend to think of homelessness as an urban problem, but it can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time, even in Beaver County.

“You could be right at the poverty line and lose your spouse or lose your job or get a large medical bill,” D’Itri said. “There’s this notion that homelessness is your fault, but that’s not always true.”

The SGA has focused its collective energy on issues of social change this year, including voter registration, the racial and gender divide and hunger, so this homelessness initiative seemed like a natural progression. With the help of the campus’ Director of Finance and Business Adam Rathbun, the Beaver County Commissioners and Beaver police, the SGA secured the proper permissions to take over a section of downtown Beaver.

Students will climb into sleeping bags and get what rest they can at Quay Park on Saturday and Sunday nights and then use their days to educate passersby, visit local businesses and panhandle, with all proceeds benefiting area homeless shelters. They’ll also receive support and educational demonstrations from some familiar faces — the staff at the Franklin Center, an Aliquippa-based organization that provides human services, outreach and referral services to low-income and unemployed county residents. The SGA and Franklin Center previously partnered for MLK Day of Service and Black History month events this year.

D’Itri hopes that the experience will help students, most of whom have never experienced homelessness, gain a new perspective on a longstanding issue.

“Being a Penn State student offers you a certain level of privilege,” D’Itri said. “You’re not only getting a degree, but you’re getting a degree from a prestigious university. We want to make sure students also develop as compassionate, intelligent, empathetic members of society.”

If you would like to take part in the event, contact Brianna D’Itri at [email protected].


April Johnston

Public Relations Director, Penn State Beaver

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