It was about 19 degrees out. Nine students snug-tight side by side vertically in a box, bundled in winter clothes, rubbing against each other, any closer together and they would be on top of each other. They would stay like this all night.
They called the cardboard box “the Burrito,” and when asked why they designed it this way, Barryton freshman Alex Barron, while squiggling actively to get his neighbor’s elbow out of his gut, said: “We’re friends.”
They were only nine out of 80 participants in the annual Cardboard City event, where students make overnight shelters with only cardboard boxes to raise awareness for homelessness.
A candlelight vigil was held at 9 p.m. Wednesday in dedication to those suffering from homelessness. Prizes were also given for the most informative box, the simplest but most efficient box and the most creative box.
Barron said the cause was relevant to him because his family moved into a Ronald McDonald house for two weeks due to financial problems when he was a child.
“We want to raise some awareness,” Barron said. “People are going to walk over in the morning, and see nine people in a box. What’s that all about?”
Nick Martin, a Commerce Township freshman, who laid three people away from Barron, said homelessness is a problem he’s never really been aware of.
“My hometown; I never really saw it,” Martin said. ” Small town, and all that.”
The event was sponsored by three local organizations who work to end homelessness: the Community Compassion Network, Aramark Food Services and the Continuum of Care.
Erin Ruding, an employee of Listening Ear and member of the Continuum of Care, helped organize the event. She said homelessness is not often what we picture it to be.
“Homelessness does not look like what it does in the movies,” Ruding said. “It’s not just someone with a grocery cart walking around; they could be staying with different friends every week, they could be staying in their car, they could be living in a storage units … that’s $40 a month. They can afford that.”
Ruding said Cardboard City makes a significant difference in regards to homelessness.
“The fact that you are willing to risk your health, and experience what homeless individuals go through every night, that makes a big impact on the people who see it,” she said.
Central Michigan University’s rotary club also took part in the event. With several cardboard boxes they taped together, they built a space where 15 of them planned to spend the night. They didn’t build a roof, because they got lazy.
“We mostly just plan to stay warm by cuddling,” Port Huron sophomore Alex Zawicki said. ” We plan to take advantage of our collective warmth.”
Zawicki, who attended the event last year as well, said the event helps him empathize with the homeless.
“It definitely makes you experience it out, what being homeless feels like,” Zawicki said.
Canton sophomore Cody Sheeler and Dearborn sophomore Patrick Phillips won the most creative box award, with what one of the organizers called “the Centipede.”
They, on the other hand, didn’t know what to call it.
“We didn’t even try, we just took 50 or so boxes, cut them up, and made this,” Sheeler said. “I don’t know, I guess it works.”
To get in the centipede, which was a pair of large boxes, with a number of progressively smaller boxes branching off of them, Sheeler and Phillips had to open up the top, step in foot first, sit down in the box, and then finally lie down.
“We used up all the boxes in Menards to make this,” Phillips said. ” We checked back just a week ago, they had no more boxes left. We used them all.”