Teenagers slept outside in cardboard boxes in Mychal’s Village at St. Leo the Great Church in Lancaster, Pa., to raise awareness for homelessness.

HNP Communications Franciscan World

LANCASTER, Pa.  — Sixty-five teenagers spent the night Sept. 15 outside in cardboard boxes in Mychal’s Village, a makeshift homeless neighborhood built in the back parking lot of St. Leo the Great Catholic Church here. This was the third year of the Home Sweet Home event, a fundraiser to benefit the homeless in New York City and Pennsylvania.

Teens paid $9.11 to spend the night, going the entire time without food to raise awareness for the discomforts of being homeless. Mychal’s Village was built in memory of Mychal Judge, OFM, who was killed on Sept. 11.

The project was created by Shannon Hickey, a senior at Lancaster Catholic High School, two years ago as a way to educate peers about the homeless.

Nearly $5,000 was raised this year, which will benefit the homeless in New York City, Lancaster, Harrisburg and Philadelphia.

Living in a refrigerator box
Cardboard refrigerator boxes, donated by an appliance store, served as the overnight homes for the teens. At the beginning of the night, the teens created packages of diapers for homeless babies and school supplies for the Homeless Student Project. Students also attached Mychal’s prayer, translated into Arabic, to teddy bears that will be sent to children in Iraq.

An 8-foot-by-12-foot city sky line was added to the village this year to give the students a sense of being homeless in the middle of a busy city, as well as a 12 -foot-high church front with working lights and stained glass window.

In the center of the village was Christ’s home, painted sparkling gold, with a large crucifix inside, along with a basket of grapes and wheat to symbolize Christ’s presence in the village. Street signs were scattered throughout the cardboard boxes, named Poverty Place, Shelter Street, Hunger Boulevard, and Saint Francis Way.

Kelly Lynch of Mychal’s Message, Lancaster, addressed the teens, along with other speakers.  The event concluded in the morning as the teens walked on a breadline for breakfast.