Nov 23, 2010 Doug Campbell Uncategorized
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.”
Students had to give up their familiar electronic devices and stick to flashlights and lanterns.
“They played cards, and read,” said Mary Handley, associate professor of human services at Cazenovia College. “They wrote in journals every hour, and read their entries at the Oxfam Hunger Banquet in Morrisville.”
Elena McClure of Elma, a senior majoring in human services, and chairperson of Cazenovia College’s homelessness campaign, was one student who wrote in her journal.
“It’s 12:30 a.m. Up until this point, we’ve had a lot of fun, but now that we’re trying to sleep the experience is becoming more real,” she said. “It’s cold! But we’re lucky. Some homeless people are totally alone, without friends to keep them occupied and keep them safe. We are lucky to have warm clothing and dry blankets – on a night like this, if we were homeless, our things would’ve been soaked through from the rain and wouldn’t be warm for sleeping in. I think we’ve all realized how lucky we are, and that homelessness is real and is dangerous.”
For more information about homelessness and hunger, visit studentsagainsthunger.org.