On Wednesday, September 26, more than 100 senior College of Nursing students and faculty, joined by Dean Kimberly Christopher and Assistant Dean Karen Barnett, will create a “cardboard village” in the campus center where they will spend the night in cardboard boxes with one blanket.
“Cardboard Village: A Glimpse into the Lived Experience of Homelessness” will be in front of the Main Auditorium. The event is open to the public from 6-8 p.m., when students will discuss the effect of homelessness on community, mental health, maternity, and pediatric nursing.
As part of the project, students will collect non-perishable items and men’s and women’s sports socks that will be distributed to Arnie’s Cupboard, the university’s food pantry, and local shelters. Donated items may be dropped off at the cardboard village from 6-8 p.m.
“Nurses are well poised to help combat homelessness,” said Assistant Professor of Community Nursing Maryellen Brisbois, who is coordinating the project. “By understanding that people are not in their situation by choice, we can provide holistic care without bias and provide support and education to improve their lives and work toward social change.”
In 2009, Dr. Brisbois received an Early Career Award from the Massachusetts Association of Colleges of Nursing for a cardboard village project she directed at Worcester State University.
According to the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, the number of people experiencing chronic homelessness and housing instability in Massachusetts remains very high. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress indicate that there were 17,565 people in Massachusetts counted as experiencing homelessness across the state as of January 2017.
- 11,298 people in families with children
- 6,267 unaccompanied adults
- 469 unaccompanied youth
- 853 veterans
- 1,238 individuals experiencing chronic homelessness
While nurses are well poised to care for this vulnerable group across the lifespan, in both hospital and community settings, students’ perceptions of homeless populations and homelessness are not fully known. As part of the project, students will journal their perceptions of homelessness before, during, and after this experience.