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Westminster students get a taste of homelessness

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SALT LAKE CITY — A couple of Westminster College students got a small taste of homelessness this week — living on $2 a day in a makeshift shelter.

"For the most part I've distanced myself from the problem, kept it out of my mind," Jordan Kamm said of his early opinions about homelessness. "Now that I've experienced a little bit of what it could possibly feel like, it's definitely going to be something that I pay more attention to."

For Kamm, one of the most insightful moments of the week came when he walked the aisles of a grocery store with $2 in hand looking for a bit of food.

"I couldn't find anything," Kamm said. "I would pick up a can of food and it would be like $2.50, just right outside my price range."

The challenge to live on $2 a day was extended to the entire campus, but only Kamm and Joey Cathcart took up the challenge of sleeping outdoors since Tuesday in a makeshift shelter of tarps, boxes and a plastic swimming pool they had gathered from the streets.

"You get really cold at night," Cathcart said. "It kind of gets to you after a while. I can notice it just in my class work. I'll kind of space out almost, just because I haven't been eating properly and I haven't been sleeping very well."

With its persistent rainfall, snow flurries and freezing temperatures, Wednesday night was the most difficult for the pair.

"It was one of the most stressful things I could have imagined," Kamm said. "I was trying to keep the boxes tied down and trying to keep the flaps from flying away."

Although the two acknowledged their experience was only a small sampling of homeless life — which often includes drug addiction, estrangement from family and friends, violence and ill health — they said they're more empathetic and appreciative of what they have.

"I'll definitely give more respect to homeless people," Cathcart said. "It makes me feel pretty darn grateful, just being able to go to an actual home with like running water and everything that I need."

He and Kamm could only hope others had the same experience and would have contributed more to their cause — raising money for an overseas microfinance company. During their homeless reenactment, Cathcart and Kamm went door to door asking for donations for the company that funds projects in impoverished countries, collecting a mere $16.

"I mean, I wish we had some more participation," Cathcart said.

Email: sgarn@desnews.com