Educating Students on Homelessness
USF students this month will be educating their peers on the issues of hunger and homelessness.
Throughout the week students are collecting clothing for the homeless. Drop off at the Marshall Student Center.
By Jenna Withrow
USF.edu News Writer
Tampa, Fla. (November 15, 2010) – Nearly one in four homeless people in Hillsborough County are children.
With almost 10,000 homeless people in this county alone, Hillsborough has the largest homeless population in Florida. Many of them are mothers, fathers, students, veterans and even business professionals.
It’s information like this that has inspired several USF student organizations to get involved.
This week, students will be the teachers as they educate their peers on two issues prevalent in their community: hunger and homelessness.
For 10 years, the USF Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement has hosted Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. From Nov. 14th to Nov. 19th, the CLCE is joining with several other student organizations to raise student awareness of these pressing issues.
“We’re trying to educate students, so they can understand the issues,” said CLCE Assistant Director Mallory Trochesset. “A lot of us don’t really realize the impact that this is having in our immediate community. We have to look beyond USF and see what is happening right on our doorsteps.”
It’s an issue that USF senior Robin Mansour became passionate about when she joined the CLCE two years ago. Mansour serves as a Partner Development Specialist, working to develop the Center’s partnerships with community and student organizations.
Mansour feels awareness is key in addressing the root cause of a problem. She hopes to educate her fellow students about the realities of these issues, while dispelling stereotypes that many may have about homelessness.
“In a country that is so affluent, with so much to give, it is really hard to believe how many hungry and homeless we have,” she said. “And it’s not just single males -- it’s families, it’s single mothers with children.”
Eight events will be held throughout the week, with two ongoing donation drives.
On Monday night, students will experience a simulation of the inequalities of the world at the Oxfam America Hunger Banquet. Upon arrival, attendees will be randomly assigned to the upper, middle, or lower class. The percentage of people assigned to each class is representative of the global poverty levels. Attendees will then be provided with a meal representative of what members of that social class eat on a daily basis.
After attending various education events throughout the week, students will have the opportunity to give back to the community through service work. On Friday, students will serve the hungry and homeless at the Trinity Café and other locations throughout Tampa.
For those with busy schedules, Trochesset said there are still plenty of volunteer opportunities available that meet any time constraints.
“Just giving an hour once a week or once a month is meaningful. It helps,” Trochesset said.” We’re all busy, but it’s about making a choice to help.”
The week will close with the annual Campus Sleepout, an interactive event during which students spend the night outside. During the event, students will group together for reflective discussions and listen to previously homeless speakers from the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County.
Mansour said this event helps put a face on the issues of homelessness and hunger. She says it’s easy for people to ignore an issue if there is no human entity to it. If an issue is faceless, she says, people can become indifferent towards it.
“To put it simply: we need to look out for each other,” Mansour said.
Jenna Withrow covers student activities and events at USF. She can be reached at 813-974-4014.