College students work to understand homelessness

It was a dark and stormy night when a group of Cazenovia College students returned to the tents they had set up on the quad after going through the "soup line" in the dining hall to have a bowl of soup and a slice of bread, representing what might be a typical day's intake for a homeless person. Sleeping in tents pitched on the quad - a "night without a home," gave them some idea of what it might be like to be unable to afford the shelter provided by four sturdy walls and a roof.

Each year, one week before Thanksgiving, National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign against Hunger and Homelessness co-sponsor National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Last week, a number of area organizations and communities took part in a nationwide effort to bring greater awareness to the problems of hunger and homelessness.

Justin Briggs, a sophomore in the college's Human Services Program, knows what homelessness is like. He's been invited to a friend's house for Thanksgiving, but he does not know where he will be living when the end of fall semester comes.

"I don't have a family I can go home to," he said.

Briggs believes that people usually see homelessness as an adult thing.

"The reality is that homelessness can affect anyone," he said. "Last summer I lived with a college employee. I don't know where I'll go during winter break. It's very stressful."

In spite of his experiences, Briggs remains upbeat, feeling lucky to be where he is now.

"I plan to get a master's degree and a doctorate if I can," he said." I want to work with child protective services, or with social services helping people with housing. I'll know how to help - having personal experience brings more to the table."

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