The population of people who suffer from homelessness in Keene, New Hampshire, is not an issue that can easily be ignored.
Instead of ignoring the issue of homelessness, KSC’s own Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) decided to do something about it.
The second annual “TKE in a Box” ran from Oct. 2 through Oct. 8 on the Student Center lawn. The brothers of TKE built a shelter out of cardboard boxes and slept in it for seven days to simulate similar effects of homelessness.
Risk Management Leader of TKE Matthew Ownes slept in the box last year. “We kind of threw it together last year and we had a lot of trouble with the rain,” Ownes said.
He said the fraternity took rain into consideration this year and built a sturdier frame for the box.
“[Last year] we could only fit four or five people, but this year we fit ten comfortably,” he said. Ownes also said at one time they had 12 brothers sleeping in the box this year.
As a South Boston native, Ownes said he interacts with people who suffer from homelessness all the time.
“Being on a college campus secludes you from that,” Ownes said. “Homelessness in Keene is definitely a problem we want people and students to be aware about,” he said.
Weather is a large issue for these people. One of Keene’s homeless shelters, Hundred Nights, opens during the one hundred coldest winter nights from 7pm to 7am.
The TKE brothers said they knew how cold some fall nights could be, but this year was no comparison to the weather they battled last year.
Ownes said last year, the temperature dropped to ten degrees.
KSC was worried about the conditions TKE was going through, but the fraternity stuck it out.
“This year we insulated the whole thing with boxes,” Ownes said. “It was cold, but we only got down to about 30 degrees. Everyone said it was fine; they weren’t too cold.”
TKE member Dan Keady was also in the box both this and last year. He said the first year was “rough.”
Keady said the construction of the box was different this year and better planned out because the fraternity now has “committees,” such as the construction committee, which Ownes is a part of.
“The construction committee measured how much material we needed. They designed [the box], and this year, we were lucky enough to have a plywood roof,” Keady said.
Keady said the box “[wasn’t] insulated” last year and that the brothers were “still exposed to the elements” while in the box. Keady said only a few structural changes were made this year, and the planning of the box went much smoother and more refined.
Last year, there was chatter on Twitter and Yik Yak that TKE was “faking” their experience in the box because an electric wire ran from the Student Center to the box.
Keady said the wire had “no implication on [their] stay overall.”
“This electricity, it’s charging our cell phones and laptops so we can do homework,” Keady said. “We’re simulating similar effects of being homeless; obviously we can’t reach the full potential because we have resources like laptops and phones so we can do school work. Above all, we’re here [at KSC] scholastically for education,” he said.
Regarding the wires, Ownes said there are “people in tents,” but TKE “definitely wanted to keep the box- esc style.” Keady said, “We had trouble with the rain, so we had to make reinforcements for weather, but that’s one of the only changes we made.”
The fraternity said the community was more involved this year compared to last.
Keady said there was an acoustic set in front of their box to attract people to their table where they were collecting donations and canned goods to give the Hundred Nights Shelter and the Community Kitchen.
“We’ve surpassed donations,” Keady said. He said last year, they had approximately $300 worth of donations. This year, he said, they raised around $550 and approximatley 330 cans of food compared to last year of approximatley 190.
The fraternity brothers also projected movies on their box for the KSC community to join them in their raising awareness of homelessness.
“We’re really pressing our values of love, charity and esteem,” Keady said.
TKE brother Joe Sansone was the Vice President of the fraternity last year. This year, he is in charge of organizing brother bonding. Sansone said he thought TKE in a box went very well this year, compared to last.
“This year was much more organized than the first year. Last year was kind of like the ‘alpha’ run on the event. We had never done it before, we were just doing whatever popped into our heads,” he said.
“This year was a lot more of a ‘beta’ test because the event’s structure and legitimacy is nowhere near complete, but the fraternity really took advantage of building around the skeleton we established last year,” Sansone said.
Sansone said the brothers were well-prepared this year. He said the expirience they had last year “really helped” to plan this year’s event.
As for future TKE boxes, Sansone said the brothers have a lot to learn.
“I don’t think the event is really solidified in our minds as far as how we’re going to run it in the future,” he said, “We’re going to learn from what went right and what went wrong, and we’re going to modify it every year until it’s perfect.”
MacKenzie Clarke can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org