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Bastyr students experience homelessness for a cause

Four naturopathic medical students at Bastyr University became homeless for a week. Pictured left to right: Allie Donnell, Jenna Biollo, Lydia Peters and Kristin Thorvilson.   - Sarah Kehoe, Bothell/Kenmore Reporter
Four naturopathic medical students at Bastyr University became homeless for a week. Pictured left to right: Allie Donnell, Jenna Biollo, Lydia Peters and Kristin Thorvilson.
— image credit: Sarah Kehoe, Bothell/Kenmore Reporter

To have a complete understanding of what their future patients go through, four naturopathic medical students at Bastyr University became homeless for a week.

Allie Donnell, Lydia Peters, Jenna Biollo and Krisitn Thorvilson set up a tent at the back of the campus and challenged themselves to live there free of luxuries, such as cellphones, showers, transportations and microwaves. The students are not eating anything that is not a donated nonperishable food item and they only use a propane heater to cook their food.

"We thought it was so important to put ourselves in the shoes of our future patients," Peters said. "This has been so good for us because it has taught us how hard it is to be homeless; there is no privacy and we feel like there is nowhere for us to put our stuff. We are going to walk away with so much more empathy and compassion for the homeless."

The women got the idea from a nonprofit they volunteer at called Tent City, which is a tent community that provides a free, safe place to live for low income individuals. They created a Facebook page and a website detailing what they are doing and asking for food or money donations they plan to give back to Tent City.

"Trying this out has made us appreciate all we have," Donnell said. "It's easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of everyday life and not step back and be thankful."

The women say they have received many stares and have received questions from students walking by observing their tent.

"This has served as a great opportunity to raise awareness of our cause to those who ask about it," Biollo said. "The response from our peers has been really positive so far."

They have raised more than $700 for Tent City so far.

"We also put out a box near our tent for people to put in nonperishable foods and we were amazed at the huge response we got," Peters said. "I think everyone is willing to be generous if they know the cause and where their generosity is going."

The four women say this experience has been stressful because it fell during school and a week before finals.

"But we ended up doing it at this time on purpose because we realized that homeless people are always faced with stress too," Peters said. "They are looking for jobs or busy with other things while they are also homeless and searching for food."

Despite the hardships, the women say they are glad they did it.

"It's been a wonderful experience overall, it's brought us together and taught us so much about what our future patients struggle with on a daily basis," Peters said. "We hope to make this a yearly tradition."

To learn more, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/tents4centsAHAC.

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