NORMAN — As temperatures dipped below freezing, 24 young people huddled in cardboard boxes near Antioch Church, with nothing but a blanket or sleeping bag to keep themselves warm.
Lacking pillows, they slept with their heads on their arms or on the thin layer of cardboard separating them from the cold pavement. The only source of warmth was a small metal fire pit, set safely back from the box encampment.
On every other day of the year, the youths might sleep inside a house, in their own beds. But on Friday night, they were homeless. Their goal: to raise awareness of homelessness in Oklahoma and broaden their own understanding of what it would mean to live on the street.
Night in a Box was the ninth annual event created by Community Action Missions, a faith-based community service group. The volunteers were from the organization or other groups, as well as people who heard about the event and wanted to join in.
Night in a Box is also a fundraiser for nonprofit groups through donations collected by the participants. This year's event raised more than $1,300 for Mission Norman and Bridges, two agencies that serve the homeless.
Many of the participants have been involved with Night in a Box for several years. Alysa Hooper, who has been involved with Community Action Missions since its creation, has taken part in Night in a Box every year.
“Even if I've done it before, it still reminds me of everything I lose sight of during the year,” said Hooper, an Oklahoma State University freshman.
The event began inside Antioch Church, where participants listened to guest speakers. Director Debra Krittenbrink and Jefte Lobano, of Bridges, spoke about their organization, which serves homeless teenagers.