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Mont Alto students chill out for the homeless

February 21, 1998

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer

MONT ALTO, Pa. - A small group of Penn State Mont Alto students planned to brave Friday night's cold, rainy weather and sleep in shelters made from cardboard boxes to raise awareness of the plight of the homeless in Franklin County, Pa.

The students also are collecting pledges of money for every hour they stay outside. It will be given to local nonprofit agencies that help homeless people, said the Rev. Frank Kocek, Protestant chaplain on the campus and leader of the cardboard city sleep-out.

"We've collected several hundred dollars in pledges," Kocek said Friday.

The students also collected food donations.

Kocek, 52, who lives in Mont Alto, said 18 students have pledged to spend some or all of the night outside in cardboard crates on the school's athletic field across from the main campus.

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The students will use old clothes and donated sleeping bags for bedding, he said.

Kocek said he has collected about 30 large cardboard crates to serve as shelters for the night.

Engineering students were planning to make more elaborate shelters using duct tape if the rain doesn't ruin their work, he said.

"It's ideal weather for this because it's so lousy. Anyone can camp out in nice weather, but we're trying to make the point that homeless people have to sleep outside, regardless of the weather," Kocek said.

He said his cardboard city also will help fight apathy toward homeless people among students who walk by and ignore their presence.

Kocek conducted a forum on homelessness at the college Thursday night with speakers from several area social service agencies.

Violet Schmid, a Waynesboro real estate agent who is trying to set up a homeless shelter, said Friday that more than 150 people sought emergency shelter and applied for emergency housing in Waynesboro in 1997.

"It's not just stereotype homeless people," she said.

Many were families who lost jobs or who were evicted from their apartments and who had no money to rent new ones, she said.

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