A group of students will trade their beds for cardboard boxes this weekend as they experience what it’s like to be homeless.
Their homeless camp will be set up tonight in a parking lot at MainSource Bank on 25th Street. Students hope to raise funds and create awareness about homelessness.
Abby and Maggie Frazier are creating the experience for fellow students as part of their senior project at Columbus East High School.
The identical twins, along with several other members from their youth group at First Presbyterian Church, will be at the bank from 4 p.m. today to 9 a.m. Sunday.
They’ll offer information and ask for donations from passers-by.
But don’t offer them food, because they are trying to mimic the experience of homelessness as closely as possible.
Maggie Frazier said the idea was sparked by several mission trips the sisters took, including visits to Louisville and Detroit.
“It’s the first time we thought, ‘Wow, this is a really big issue,’” she said.
Then, they were riding their bikes on the People Trails and saw a homeless man sleeping under a bridge. It was the moment they realized homelessness hit close to home, even though many people might not see it.
“We’re in a rural area, where there are more places to go,” Abby Frazier said. “In the city, you have no choice but to be out in the open.”
The annual “Point-in-Time Count” from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found 81 homeless people in Bartholomew County on Jan. 29 this year. That number includes those in area shelters and others found in a single-day headcount.
But Leah Jackman-Wheitner, who has known the twins for years and is serving as their project mentor, said such snapshots do not include the whole picture of homelessness in the community.
“There’s also the person sleeping in their car or the person couch-surfing for months,” she said.
That’s why education is one major component of the students’ project.
They will make cardboard signs with facts about homelessness, and gain from the experience to develop a better perspective.
“You can really learn a lot about life by branching out and learning about your surroundings,” Maggie Frazier said.
The other part of their project is fundraising. The sisters want to raise at least $2,000, most of which will go to help end homelessness in Columbus, but a quarter of the total will be donated to similar causes in Detroit, the city they are most familiar with from mission trips.
They already have raised more than $400 from their online GoFundMe campaign, which will remain open until Sept. 7.
Other donations — including clothes, blankets and food — can be dropped off at MainSource Bank this weekend or at First Presbyterian Church.
“I want to see a difference being made,” Maggie Frazier said.
Abby Frazier said she would like to see services being offered to homeless men.
“I want to see something happen in Columbus,” she said.