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Homelessness and poverty among students on the rise

VIROQUA, Wis - Thursday night, more than 40 area high school students will be braving the frigid temperatures and spending the night outside.

It's to raise awareness of homelessness and poverty among their peers.

This is the fifth year students from Laurel and Viroqua high school have put on the Poverty Awareness Event.

Students will spend the night outside with nothing more than the clothes they wear and the cardboard boxes they will use for shelter.

The event may only last one night, but the action reflects a growing number of students facing poverty and homelessness.


Laurel High School senior Anna Wolfson said trying to keep up with life as a high school student can be a challenge.

"Even just juggling classes is very difficult, and then if you're running extracurriculars or in a leadership position," said Wolfson.

But for some of her classmates, it can be even tougher.

"Getting through high school is difficult enough, and then not necessarily knowing where your next meal is coming from, not necessarily knowing where you're going to sleep, it's really sad," said Wolfson. "It's really frustrating."

Crawford and Vernon counties rank the seventh-and eighth-poorest in Wisconsin. In the past two school years, each county saw homelessness grow by more than a dozen students.

"It's sad for me that people have to go through that, and I do want to help them, said Zoe Brooke Zibton, a senior at Laurel High School.

As part of the event, students have been raising money while also raising awareness about the problem.

"When we started, every student was asked to raise $10 for a pledge to participate," said Brooke Zibton. "This year, students have to raise $50 to participate, and many students are going above and beyond that, trying to help as much as they can."

While the event only lasts for a day, the experience for some students will always stay with them.

"You don't sleep well," said Wolfson. "It's very hard to get up the next day and go through school. Then, we get to go home and sleep in our beds and have hot food, but other people don't get to do that. It totally changed my perspective."

The students will be outside from 9 tonight until 6 Friday morning.

This year, they hope to raise $4,000 or the non-profit organization, Couleecap.

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