Whether it’s a crouched figure in the shadows, sleeping on a back door step, or a line of people waiting outside for their dinner at the local Union Gospel Mission, Seattle’s homeless community is very apparent.
Urban Plunge is an immersion experience offered by Urban Involvement to bridge this gap and better understand this largely marginalized community.
This last winter break, first-year Samuel Black and nine other SPU students embarked on a journey to get a new perspective of what their neighbors on the street really go through.
Students prepared for a five-day engagement by roleplaying as homeless people interacting with other homeless people, a unique opportunity according to junior Mackenzie Martin, the Urban Plunge coordinator.
“UI (Urban Involvement) has a special place interacting with people who are literally your neighbors, but a different kind of neighbors who you might not ordinarily spend time with,” Martin said.
When asked about his Urban Plunge experience, Black described the various activities he participated in such as holding up a sign, eating at homeless shelters and listening to people’s stories.
“It wasn’t as physically challenging as I expected,” he said. “I anticipated missing meals, going hungry and being cold all the time, and being drenched with rain. It ended up being not too bad.”
Chris Yang | The Falcon
First-year Samuel Black is grateful for his experience with Urban Plunge.
What he didn’t expect was having difficulty wrapping his mind around the mental challenges that can be associated with homelessness.
“I found the most difficult part was the loneliness and sense of purposelessness,” Black said. “[There wasn’t] anywhere to go.”
Though this was an unexpected challenge, Black was still optimistic.
“It was good to learn different stories of how they might have gotten there, and also about the different opportunities and ministries or organizations that are helping homeless people in Seattle,” Black said.
Black realized a common assumption about homeless people is that they all started poor or have little education, but he learned that this was not true when speaking with Bella, a woman experiencing homelessness in Seattle.
Black met Bella, a heroin addict, his second day out on the streets. He and a few other Urban Plunge participants asked her if she knew where they could find breakfast.
“We struck up a conversation with her told her what we were doing as a part of Urban Plunge.”
Then she opened up about her life.
She explained that she had received her Master’s degree from a university, but due to unfortunate circumstances she became addicted to heroin.
After experiencing Urban Plunge, Black was thankful for what he learned, the greatest take-away being able to witness the manner in which people experiencing homelessness are treated.
“Homeless people want to be treated like a person, not a problem,” Black said.
Photo credit to: joettecalabrese.com