Campus Groups Promote Homelessness Awareness: Variety of Activities Planned to Educate Students

by   Posted on November 12th, 2009 in Uncategorized

Brenda Shepard, Staff Writer

Imagine sleeping on cement. Now think about being hungry, alone and numb from the cold. This is how many people across the United States spend each day and night. While students on campuses across the country lie in their warm dorm rooms watching the latest reality show, these homeless men, women and children are simply trying to survive.

From Nov. 15 to the 21, students across Mason’s campus will have the opportunity to learn more about homelessness through the annual Hunger and Homelessness Action Week. Through a variety of activities, students will learn about homelessness from people who were and still are living without a roof each night.

“We live in one of the richest regions of the richest country in the world, so it’s easy to assume it’s not happening, but it is,” said Northern Virginia Lutheran Campus Ministry Director Ben Buss.

According to the event website,, “Hunger and Homelessness Action Week is an annual program of the GMU Campus Ministry Association. The goal of the week is to promote greater awareness of the needs of hungry and homeless people in our community, in the United States, and around the world.”

“We decided to have several events during HHAW that focus on innovative solutions to poverty, the main cause of hunger and homelessness, to expose students to novel, positive solutions to hunger and homelessness,” said junior Whitney Burton, an economics major and Presidet of Mason ChangeMakers.

On “Brown Bag Sunday,” Nov. 15, students are encouraged to join Catholic Campus Ministry to make lunches which will be taken to homeless men and women in Fairfax and D.C. Throughout the week, there will be the HHAW headquarters in the North Plaza from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. where students can get information on events and make food in the Salvation Army’s “canteen” vehicle for delivery to those who need it.

On Monday Nov. 16, students will have the chance to hear what living homeless is really like when currently or formerly homeless men and women from the National Coalition for the Homeless will share their stories and take questions about their experience in the Student Union Building I’s Patriots Lounge.

On Wednesday Nov. 18, GMU Hillel, along with Alpha Epsilon Pi, Nashim (the Jewish women’s group) and Israel Club, will join forces with the help of a local synagogue, Congregation Olam Tikvah, to prepare tuna casseroles for So Others Might Eat, an interfaith, community-based organization in D.C. that, among other things, helps feed those who are homeless. One of the highly anticipated events of the week is the sleep out sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ. Students are invited to spend the night outside in order to experience a small dose of homelessness.

“A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to help out with a hypothermia relief effort here in Fairfax County—it blew my mind that the program I was involved in was a response to the fact that some people can’t survive a winter in Fairfax,” said Mark Dundon, a senior, philosophy major and student campus minister for CCM. With such a variety of activities being offered during HHAW, students can be involved in many different ways. Each group will be presenting their own interpretations of the issue of homelessness.

“You see similarities and differences in each of our faiths, but we all agree on the issue of helping alleviate hunger and homelessness,” said Buss. “All of our faith traditions have something about helping those in need, so we come together for this.”

Many different groups on campus have come together to spread awareness of homelessness that exists across the country. Students have the chance to learn from one another and work together to accomplish a good service to those in need.

“HHAW is especially meaningful since it is a collaboration of all kinds of faith groups toward a common goal,” said President of Hillel, Sarah Fort, a senior and government and international politics major. “We should probably combine our collective strength more often!”

According to the National Coalition for Homeless, “In a recent approximation, USA Today estimated 1.6 million people . . . used transitional housing or emergency shelters.” For more information on events during HHAW, visit or search “HHAW” on Facebook to join the group.

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