Twin Oaks students get a taste of homelessness

Sixth-graders get perspective on being disadvantaged by staying outside in the cold and getting one soup-line meal
By: Lauren Gibbs, The Placer Herald
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On a chilly Friday morning, more than 60 sixth-graders were wrapped in blankets and dressed in heavy jackets as they spent their school day “homeless.”
Parents of the Twin Oaks Elementary students brought homemade soups and chilies to serve the students, soup-kitchen style — one ladle full with bread on the side.
The idea of being homeless for a day spurred from two sixth-graders, Meghan Gibson and Jamie Goodwin.
After a recent soccer game, Gibson said she saw a homeless man in nearby Roseville. After giving him food, his eyes welled up with tears and Gibson said he was so thankful.
Goodwin said when Gibson came to class, she kept talking about how fortunate her good deed made her feel. From there, and with the help of their sixth-grade teachers Christina Schuler and Ellen Hatcher, they decided to opt out of a class Christmas party and instead brace for the cold weather and put themselves in a position of what it would be like without a home.
For four hours, the sixth-graders bundled up, played games to keep occupied and got a glimpse of the life of a homeless person.
About half way through, Gibson said the purpose was sinking in.
“We’re starting to get the experience of having no place to go,” she said as she huddled with a group of friends on the steps outside the multipurpose room.
Sixth-grader Derek Johnson said their morning was spent trying to find things to do and said he felt sympathetic to what it would be like without a place to call home.
“We actually get to feel how they feel,” he said.
For the teachers, their goal was for students not to be scared by someone who is disadvantaged.
“Their first impression is to be scared, but it can happen to everyone,” Hatcher aid. “It really hit home for them.”
Part of the project included representatives from the Sacramento Food Bank and the Rocklin Police Department sharing their role in working with the homeless population, as well as gathering donated clothing and raising funds for the Sacramento Food Bank. More than $500 was raised through the students’ fundraising efforts, where they gathered donations, either a dollar amount given for every half-hour spent “homeless” or flat donations.
No matter the amount raised, Gibson said she hopes the recipients are thankful.
“It’s probably frustrating being homeless, not having anywhere to go and nothing to call your own — I would be very grateful (for clothing and shelter),” she said.
For the teachers, they saw this as a life lesson outside of the classroom.
“If you follow someone who doesn’t have a home, they have to find shelter. They’re (the students) realizing these things,” Schuler said.
The cup of soup and a slice of bread was the only meal the students ate during their day spent being homeless. They were allowed to bring blankets, sweatshirts and pillows but weren’t allowed the luxuries of electronics and games, Goodwin said.
“They get a taste of what it’s like to be homeless,” she said.
Donate your old clothes
What: As part of the sixth-graders of Twin Oaks Elementary’s “homeless for a day” project, students are collecting gently-used clothing to donation to the Sacramento Food Bank.
When: Drop offs are accepted between 7:50 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday (beginning Jan. 4)
Where: Twin Oaks Elementary School, 2835 Club Drive, Rocklin
For more photos: Twin Oaks sixth-graders go homeless for a day