Homeless and hungry

Sophomore Marty Piper sleeps outside Benner Library. Piper chose to be homeless for three days, using only a towel and a football for bedding. Photo by Sarah Slinkman.

By Justine Espersen

Sophomore Marty Piper walked in smiling, dressed in nice khaki slacks, a black vest and a light pink dress shirt with a matching plaid bow tie.

It was impossible to tell he had been homeless.

Upon returning from fall break, Piper spent three days living away from his warm room in Hills.

“I’m not bad with money,” he said “I never had to worry about it, but I chose to be homeless around campus for three days.”

Piper lived off one set of clothes, a Chicago Bears beach towel, a football-turned-pillow and a bag full of school work from Tuesday, Oct. 11, until Friday, Oct. 14.

Piper said there were times when he wasn’t sure why he chose to be homeless.

“I was walking outside my lobby [Hills] with my bag on my shoulder, and I kept on thinking, ‘Why am I doing this?’ But I kept on walking,” Piper said.

While homeless, Piper slept in the quad until 2 a.m., and then moved to the Hills lobby until 4:30 a.m. in order to abide by curfew.

During the day, he sat in the quad with a sign next to him that read, “God is good.”

The sign was inspired by a homeless man of downtown Chicago.

“I was with my friends … walking around downtown and we met Walter Thomas,” Piper said. “He didn’t ask for anything, but relied on God to provide.”

After meeting Thomas, Piper decided to spend time as a homeless man while attending school.

“I wanted a feeling of only relying on God,” he said. “I never asked for food or drink. I relied on God to provide [just like Walter].”

Even though he did not beg, people still offered Piper food. One night when he was sleeping in the Hills lobby, he woke up with a bottle of water and a Pop-Tart beside him.

Later that morning, Piper was lying bundled up in his towel on a bench in the quad, marveling at the silence of the early hours.

He had his eyes closed and when he opened them again, he saw a banana sitting on his bag.

“Now, I’m not one of those people to believe in that kind of [miracle] stuff, but at that time, it felt like a feast,” Piper said, smiling.

The banana helped motivate him to press on with his challenge to be homeless for God.

Through his experience, Piper learned the importance of a simple conversation.

“What was amazing was that people would come up to me and start up a conversation with me,” Piper said. “It was a big deal to know they were supporting me.”

Though some people supported Piper, others were confused by his actions.

“I had a lot of time to people watch. You could see from some of people’s stares [they must have been thinking], ‘What are you doing?’ Why are you sitting there?’” Piper said.

The strange looks brought Piper’s homeless experience full circle, as he realized how homeless people are treated by others on a daily basis.

The lessons he learned may motivate him to be homeless again.

“I might be doing this during spring break, if I don’t go on a mission trip,” Piper said.

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