Owen plans homelessness awareness event

What started as a simple project for a sociology class has turned into something greater for sophomore Parker Owen.

Owen is sponsoring a campus wide "sleep-out" Friday to simulate what it is like to be homeless.

Owen hopes the event will raise awareness for youth homelessness, as well as raise donations and supplies for the Lawrence Community Shelter.

"I had no idea how huge it was at first," Owen said.

Owen said Jacob Bucher, assistant professor of sociology, showed him a packet one day during his social inequality class and Owen became interested.

Bucher said after showing the class the information, Owen took on the project by himself.

"He took it upon himself to organize it, contact speakers and community groups to contribute and donate," Bucher said. "He has just done a terrific job with it."

Owen made contact with Loring Henderson, the executive director of the Lawrence Community Shelter. Henderson will be speaking about homelessness in Lawrence at the event Friday.

Henderson said more than 2,000 homeless youth live in the Kansas City area and 300 to 400 of them live in the Lawrence area.

"Homelessness is very complicated, it is not just people who don't want to work or who want to be homeless," Owen said. "It is made up of people who are mentally ill or lost their jobs. Most importantly, it is made up of people like you and me."

Owen said one of the reasons he was interested in the project was because he has always been someone who is very concerned with the homeless. He has an understanding.

"I have always empathized with people who have less than me," Owen said.

Raising money for the Lawrence Community Shelter was something Owen was interested in because, not only do they provide daily living services and a place for people to get out of the weather, but it is a program that helps people get out of homelessness.

"We provide what we call a path for a positive future," Henderson said. "The idea is to help people get out of homelessness. We have four different programs and have an individual work with a case manger to establish goals and work the hardest to get out of homelessness."

Both Henderson and Owen know the affect that students can have on the issue.

"Baker students are the people who can actually make a difference and impact the problem," Owen said.

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