By Tiffany E. Price
Bare pavement and cardboard boxes. Many people call this home.There are several ways to experience the idea of being homeless, but a week-long event where people sleep in cardboard boxes to raise awareness for the homeless and the hungry is catching Omaha’s attention.
Just Can It! is a weeklong event that stretches from April 19-23. UNO’s Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity has put this event together for the past seven years. The Pikes usually do it in the Pep Bowl, but this year they decided to move it to the streets.
“We want to make sure we get a little taste of what it’s like to be homeless,” said Joel Wallace, a UNO senior of Pi Kappa Alpha. “I know we have our cars and we can go home any time we want, but we want to do this right and make sure we go all the way.”
This will be the second year that this event has been held at the Crossroads Mall parking lot instead of on campus in the Pep Bowl.
“We want people to know that this is not just something for us to do but something for us to experience and learn from,” Wallace said.
The reason behind the change is the major difference in their collection of the cans.
This event sets a goal every year to raise a certain amount of cans or non-perishable foods during the week. In the past, the campus Pep Bowl was not getting enough of the outside attention that was needed.
Last year, the Pikes slept at the mall for the first time and caught the attention of America. They were on “Good Morning America” when they set a goal of 10,000 cans to be raised. At the end of the week last year, the Pikes raised 17,867 cans.
Now they are back and with their teammates, Alpha Xi Delta sorority and the Salvation Army.
Kate Bard, a freshman in Alpha Xi Delta, is known around the Just Can It! living area as the Mayor of the Boxes.
“I like being able to sleep out here – help my sorority and the Pikes as much as I can to reach their goal,” Bard said.
Michele Shearer, the volunteer and special events coordinator from the Salvation Army, has been sleeping outside with the Pikes and Alpha Xi Deltas for the past three years now.
She said she enjoys watching what she sees every year. She plans being a part of this event for next several years and can’t imagine her life not being a part of Just Can It!
“These students don’t have the money right now to donate, but they have the time, talent and creativity that is needed for this event,” Shearer said.
The goal is set this year at 20,000 cans, and they are well on their way to reaching their goal. They have planned events each day to help reach it.
“We will be happy when we exceed that goal, too,” Shearer said.
They are coordinating a sports night at the Sapp Fieldhouse, where if students bring a can they can get in to watch a kickball flag football competition. They’re also planning a Dorm Storm to collect cans from students in dorms, a well as a Sit Out at No Frills Supermarkets.
Participants sleep and stay outside all night, while several people come in the middle of the night to drop off cans.
Shearer wants UNO students to get involved in helping the community.
“Volunteer now,” she said. “It changes lives.