Six students from Tennessee State University decided to put their selves in the footsteps of a homeless person by going homeless for a day. They joined me within the Nashville streets to experience how it feels to live on the streets making it their home for at least one night.
Going from the boredom of a dorm room to hustling the streets for survival is a drastic change. As the night approached to begin the journey Tennessee State University students Zyhir Baker-Elam, Alexia King, Alexyss Hicks, Mikayla Jones, Courtney Hollis, and Damarkus Jones transformed themselves to look the part of being homeless.
The experience hit home for King because she was in the position of being homeless growing up. During the experience King was shocked by how helpful the homeless were. “The more fortunate people were partying and didn’t bother to help us while the homeless people were giving us coins that they didn’t even have to give,” stated King.
Hicks changed her perspective of homeless people because of the project. “Having to walk all night and trying to find somewhere to lay our heads while participating in the project was the toughest part for me,” stated Hicks.
The long day began at 12:00 midnight. As the group journeyed downtown without cell phones, limited snacks, and sheets to sleep with it seemed that the day would pass by quickly. The night life of downtown made time go by. As the streets slowly cleared and the crowd on Broadway of Nashville dispersed the experience suddenly began to get harder.
There was no more beating on buckets to raise enough money for food. Sleep was uncomfortable and picnic tables became plat surfaces for beds. We had to walk around frequently to not be questioned by police and stay safe from others who might attack us for what we did have.
There was no crowd to help make time go by. The night became cold and some homeless quickly transitioned back to being a person with a car and decent clothing.
All that was left in the night included night, the real homeless fighting for a better day ahead, and the cold pavement. “There is a big difference in being out all and being out in the night all night. At least people have a place to come home to after being out all night. Homeless people don’t have a home to return to. There is no returning home by morning,” stated Baker-Elam.
The group took one week to prepare for the day. No matter how long they prepared for it, there will never be enough preparation for what the students experienced.
“It’s rough being homeless. The same way it only took us a week to prepare for this can be the same week that it took someone to become homeless. It was nothing I expected, but I’m grateful to have more understanding from our experience,” stated Courtney Hollis.
The money that was raised during the project was donated towards a meal for young men of Boyd Hall on the campus of Tennessee State University.