In honor of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, Campus Kitchen and Elon Volunteers are co-hosting a series of events November 12-16 in an effort to shed light on common misconceptions about homelessness, and introduce Elon University students to the ways they can help the homeless in the community.
“I think a lot of times we have preconceived notions about homelessness,” said Rachel Lewis, hunger and homelessness co-coordinator for Elon Volunteers. “I think we generally assume people did something to deserve to be homeless. We want to give students the understanding that that’s not really how it works."
Events such the Nov. 13 “Faces of Homelessness” panel discussion are intended to help facilitate that understanding, and to call attention to a situation that Elon students don’t normally see first hand, according to Lewis.
“I think in general when you go to Elon you don’t really see much of the surrounding community,” Lewis said. “You assume everyone is middle or upper-middle class. But there’s a homeless shelter about 15 minutes away in Alamance."
In addition to educating students about the realities of homelessness, the awareness week will include events intended to get students involved in service activities relating to the issues of hunger and homeless.
The week will begin with a service trip to Redbud Farm, a local farm that donates excess food to homeless shelters.
During a cooking shift held in Colonnades Nov. 14, students will prepare recipes using resourced food from Moseley, Acorn and Elon dining halls to be delivered to the Allied Churches homeless shelter in Alamance.
“While the issues of hunger and homelessness are complex and effect many people, there are small ways that we can help the people in our community,” said Lindsay Swenson, president of Campus Kitchen at Elon University. “If more people at Elon are aware of the ways to become involved locally, then we can do more to help those in our area.”
In an effort to call attention to another organization that deals with homelessness in the community, Habitat for Humanity’s Shack-a-Thon is included in the awareness week’s programming.
Shack-a-Thon invites students to compete to build the best structure in a 45-minute period using cardboard, newspapers and duct tape. All proceeds from the $5 entrance fee will be used to fund the building of Habitat for Humanity’s 22nd house in Alamance County.
“It’s a fun event to get people involved, and it’s an opportunity to learn more about habitat and its mission,” Lewis said.
The overall goal of the week is to get students thinking about homelessness in a new way, and about how they can contribute to efforts to alleviate the problem, Swenson said.
“I hope that students who participate in the events will learn something new about the issues, and the ways to help in the community,” she said.