Valley middle school students experience night of homelessness and hunger

Sacred Heart students rough it for homelessness awareness

MECCA, Calif. - For the homeless, the conditions this time of year can be miserable. Local students are taking to the streets to experience it first-hand.

With no electronics and nothing much but sleeping bags and the clothes on their backs, more than 50 eighth-graders from Sacred Heart School in Palm Desert took shelter in an empty warehouse at Tudor Ranch in Mecca Thursday. For 12 hours they were homeless.

"We don't have pillows. We're not going to change, use deoderant or brush our teeth," said 13-year-old Shannon Chakmakian.

For just one night the kids experience what 1.1 million students across the country go through every night. They slept on cold concrete and will go to school with empty stomachs.

They will fast until 12 p.m. on Friday to spread awareness. Their teacher Rod Torgerson said the mission is to push them from their comfort zone and into homelessness and hunger.

"We take for granted what our parents do for us," said Chakmakian.

"I'm hoping they learn how it is to feel a little bit hungry, how it feels to sleep on the ground. I want them to be uncomfortable," said Torgerson. "I want them to be more appreciative in the morning."

To also experience the joy of giving, the entire school collected canned food for several weeks, not for themselves but to donate to the Mecca Community Center.

The eighth graders will wake up Friday morning, pray and go on a hike without food in their bellies. They'll then deliver the collected canned food to the community center.

Parents we talked to said they are proud of the school and hope their children will learn to be more empathic to those in need.

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