AVC to host homeless camp simulation

Skid Row homeless

Thousands of homeless people sleep in cardboard boxes every night on Skid Row in Los Angeles.

LANCASTER – Dozens of cardboard boxes will litter the grass at the Antelope Valley College Campus Monday night as students set up a makeshift community in a fundraising effort to bring attention to the plight of the homeless.

“This is a homeless simulation for our students to raise awareness,” said Dr. Jill Zimmerman, AVC Dean of Students. “So that our students are aware of what it’s like to be hungry and homeless in 2011. It’s not a pretty sight right now.”

Camp Coming Home starts at noon on Monday and ends at noon on Tuesday. Students and faculty at the AVC Campus are encouraged to participate individually or as part of a group, spending one night in a box outdoors to raise money to help the homeless and to get a feel for what their lives may be like.

Attendees are requested not to bring any food or personal electronic devices, such as cell phones, computers or iPods. Attendees will be provided only with a cup of soup and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for Monday night.

“There won’t be any other things for them to eat just like our homeless and hungry people in our community,” said Dr. Zimmerman. “There’re not always things to eat.”

Camp Coming Home will kick off Monday at noon with a Pledge and Collection Station where students, faculty and members of the community are urged to bring cash donations or canned goods to stock the ASO Food Pantry, which helps students in need. There will be several other activities throughout the night, including a Storytelling and Discussion Group with AVC President Dr. Jackie Fisher, Steve Baker of Grace Resources, and students who have been or currently are homeless.

“A lot of our students are living that life right now,” said Dr. Zimmerman. “Trying to do the very best they can to change their situation through education, and either sleeping in their cars or sleeping on somebody else’s floor… really working very hard to change their circumstances so they can have a better life for themselves.”

At 8 p.m. Monday, organizers will screen the movie “The Pursuit of Happiness,” the true story of a once-homeless single father who raised himself up to become a successful stock broker.

Then from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. Tuesday will be “Quiet Reflection,” where attendees, who choose to sleep overnight, will retire to their boxes for the night.

Camp Coming Home will reopen at 8 a.m. Tuesday with a breakfast of doughnuts and Hot Cocoa for the overnight guests. There will be Role Playing throughout the morning, and then the event will wrap up with a Commitment Pledge and Reflection. Students and participants will be asked to make a monetary pledge as well as a promissory pledge to help someone in need.

“We’re really encouraging students to demonstrate their changed behavior by doing something different,” said Dr. Zimmerman. “You might do something for 24 hours, but what are you going to do in the next 24 hours to make a change?”

Dr. Zimmerman says they are expecting between 50 to 100 people to participate in the outdoor sleepover, however hundreds of attendees will be coming in and out throughout the event. Members of the community may participate by stopping by the event to bring canned food or monetary donations. Donations are tax deductible and can be made through the AVC Foundation.

Camp Coming Home will take place from 12 p.m., Monday, September 26 to 12 p.m., Tuesday, September 27 on the Antelope Valley College Campus, in the grassy area between the gym and the AVC Library. It is billed as a 24-hour homeless camp simulation; however, attendees may come and go as their schedule permits. Attendees are asked to bring a blanket, towel or lawn chair to sit on, a refrigerator-sized box (if planning to sleep overnight), and food or cash donations for the ASO Hearts and Hands Project. For more information on this event, contact Dr. Jill Zimmerman at 661-722-6354.