‘Homeless, Hungry and Hopeful’ in Homer

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The Salvation Army supports efforts to help teens experiencing homelessness.

On a cold night in Homer, Alaska, Lt. Christin Fankhauser spent the night in a local park, camped out in a cardboard box, in solidarity with other individuals seeking to raise awareness of teenage homelessness. The event—Homeless, Hungry and Hopeful Homer—was the culmination of Homer High School student Casey Marsh’s senior project, which expanded outside school walls to educate the community about youth homelessness and the plight of teens in transition without a parent or guardian.

Fankhauser, Homer corps officer with her husband, Caleb, represented The Salvation Army at the event. Caleb Fankhauser decorated the box, creating a cardboard Emergency Disaster Services canteen.

“When Casey said she was going to put this event on, I was really excited—then I realized how cold it would be,” Fankhauser said.

What became known as the “Triple H’s of Homer” began at 6 p.m. in downtown Homer at the WKFL (Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith and Love) park. Throughout the night, the temperature stayed in the 20s. Boxes, tents, a fire pit, food and live music caught the attention of passersby. Drivers showed support by honking. Some people stopped to ask questions.

“One man who was walking his dog, stopped and ate with us,” Fankhauser said. “He stayed for an hour, asking each of us why were there and what’s being done in the community to address the issue.”

As a member of an existing homeless action committee comprised of concerned individuals and organizations that meets monthly, Fankhauser is working on a community needs assessment to apply for funding to open a cold weather shelter.

“My eyes were really opened after attending this event,” Fankhauser said. “I had many offers to sleep in tents or in cars, but I wanted to stay in the box. We set my box up at 6 p.m. and by 8 there was already frost accumulating on it. I wore three layers of clothes, I had a sleeping bag and blankets, I covered the open windows with blankets, I had my dog to snuggle with and I was still cold. Beyond being cold, I was out in the open, right by a busy street. I thought about my safety, and it helped me realize how vulnerable our homeless are.”

Fankhauser said the experience helped her understand the dire situations some people face.

“But in all honesty, my experience was only one night,” she said. “I don’t have to worry about where I am going to get my next meal, where I am going to spend the night or if I am going to be safe there. No one should ever have to experience that, especially not the 47 homeless youth in our city, 17 of whom are without the care of an adult. This experience only solidifies my commitment as a part of this movement to end homelessness in Homer.”

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