- Associated Press - Monday, December 7, 2015

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - A teacher at Marian High School in Omaha has challenged his senior sociology class to learn about homelessness by spending a night in a car.

The Omaha World-Herald (http://bit.ly/1QaRYQS ) reports that teacher Tom Baker’s assignment is part of the homelessness and poverty unit in his class. Baker says it was a way for students to experience the reality of being homeless on a regular basis in a simplistic way.

“Our conversation is shaped around the idea ‘What would that mean if you had to do that every night?’?” Baker said.

Baker’s students were allowed to sleep in cars in their garage or driveways and have their phones or car alarm in case of an emergency, as well as a pillow, blanket and water. They were urged not to turn on the heat or air conditioning. Students had a two-week window in October to compete the assignment.

Students had to write a reflection paper about their experience and there was a class discussion after the assignment.

Senior Madalyn McKeone was one of the few who lasted through the night. She said she had trouble sleeping due to her height and that she had difficulty getting through school and work the next day.

“I hit a wall after lunch and got really tired. I was being grumpy,” senior Julia Nulty said. “It puts things in perspective… having the opportunity to have a roof over your head - it’s a luxury.”

According to Mike Saklar, executive director of Nebraska’s largest shelter, the Siena-Francis House in Omaha, the assignment is a “worthy project.”

Saklar said, “Teachers can help further the discussion by pointing out that these are real occurrences that happen all the time in our community.”

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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