Experiencing homelessness

Natural disasters left approximately 42 million people homeless last year.

This past weekend, local high school seniors had the opportunity to face homelessness themselves, and now understand what it is like to live outside the comfort of their homes.

A dozen Wapakoneta High School seniors, who are taking a senior art class, studio portfolio, with teacher Suzanne Temple, designed and hand-crafted temporary shelters, which were made of cardboard, tarp, tape, paint, etc.

Not only did the students get to make the shelters, but they also stayed over night in them this weekend.

“This was a real eye-opener,” Wapakoneta High School senior Ross Kohler said.

The students have been working on their temporary shelters for approximately a month, and on Friday they set up their shelters in the Jason Kline Memorial Atrium, which is the courtyard outside of the Wapakoneta High School, and that evening, after the football game, the students spent the night in the shelters they made — in the rain and without heat and electricity.

“This was a good learning experience, not only for me but for everyone else,” Wapakoneta High School senior Annie Henderson said. “It made me realize how fortunate we are and how much love and support I have.”

Henderson, Kohler and the other students in Temple’s class had to address the problems people face while staying in a shelter — which was one of the main purposes of the project — which include protection from the weather, sturdy construction and enough space to provide comfort and privacy.

“Because it was a project for art students, unique designs were part of their final grade, along with an essay on their experiences designing, building and living in their shelters,” Temple said.

Each student was permitted to spend only $20 on any extra supplies, such as tarp, duct tape or support poles.

“I was frustrated that we only had $20 to spend because I wanted to get more stuff for my structure or shelter,” Henderson said. “I bought duct tape, plastic film and decorative items, but I never got to put the decorative items on because it rained.”    

She noted that the duct tape and hot glue work well together‚ but she ran into some difficulties working with the hot glue and knife to cut the cardboard.

“Not only did I burn myself practically every day, but I am horrible at cutting cardboard with a knife,” Henderson said. “So, throughout this project, I had burns and cuts. But I had a fun time doing this project and I was happy with the way mine turned out.” 

Henderson noted her temporary shelter, Temple’s shelter and Logan Ferenbaugh’s shelter were the only one’s that actually stayed up after the heavy evening rain. 

“Everyone else’s were smashed,” Henderson said.

This project required much trial and error, and the rain on Friday did not help any.

But this project was a real eye opener for the students.

“It made me realize how hard it will be to do this every day,” Wapakoneta High School senior Miranda Allen said.

Keaton Zwiebel agreed and said it makes you realize to never take your home for granted.

“We had $20 to build the project, but not everyone has access to glue or $20,” Wapakoneta High School senior Jessica Rich said.

Each student put their own character and design into their temporary shelters they built.

“Building my structure-design was fun because I wanted to make mine unique and different,” Henderson said. “So I did.”

She noted on Friday evening, which was the night the class stayed in the temporary shelters, she was very cold, even though she was curled up with blankets. 

“I can’t even imagine homeless people living like that every day,” Henderson said. “I can say now that I experienced it for a night and it made me realize how lucky I am.”