LVC Students Contribute to Battle Against Homelessness

Sociology majors with a concentration in family studies participate in Project Homeless Connect

Editor’s Note: Students pursuing sociology degrees with a concentration in family studies participated in Project Homeless Connect, a one-day event organized by the Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness in Harrisburg, Pa.  Dr. Marianne Goodfellow, associate professor of sociology, accompanied the students in 2013 and 2015. Local resident Jack McNamarra also joined the students for the day. More than 300 people received assistance from more than 70 service providers and agencies as part of the event, which also included 460 volunteers.

Shaquel Marshall ’16, global studies and sociology major

The mission of the Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness (CACH) is to educate and mobilize the community and coordinate services to prevent and reduce homelessness in the Capital region. Before the information session concerning the event, I expected to be helping individuals above a certain age group who had been homeless for a while and looked so. However, during the information session with Ms. Angela Wise, we discussed how the people that would attend would be average people that looked like many people that you see every day. It was an interesting community service project. 

During the day of the event, there were many people, but even more volunteers than actual people in need of help. That was surprising and wonderful because in the past years there had always been more homeless people than volunteers. So not only are more people participating in reducing the homeless population, but it’s actually working. 

When the event was starting I noticed that many of the people coming in to receive help had been young and looked, like Ms. Angela said, like everyday people you’d see on a regular day. There were many young people and people that could have easily been a family member or close friend. The young lady I helped happened to be the same age as I was. She was in need of emergency shelter and other things as well. Another student and I worked with that young lady. At the end of the day, we were able to help the young lady with everything except a government cell phone. 

It was definitely a heartwarming moment to be able to get the young lady back in a shelter to make sure she had somewhere to go at the end of the day. I couldn’t imagine being in her situation and surviving. However, being a part of the movement to reduce homelessness is something that I am glad I participated in and had a part in making a change for someone.  

 

Jess Coughlin ’17, sociology and English major

As a volunteer during Project Homeless Connect, I was assigned to work with a young woman who was near homeless. She arrived at the complex with her husband, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and her sister-in-law’s husband—each in search of housing information, clothing, and vital paperwork. While I and several other volunteers worked together to get the family all the services they needed, it became clear that they, like many homeless or near-homeless individuals, were ordinary people struggling to keep afloat in hard economic times. They were just people, down on their luck.

While I gained important skills in communicating with people whose circumstances are vastly different from my own, I would argue that I learned most by simply observing the strength of the family I worked with—they stuck together, shared photos from weddings, of their children, of good times. They joked with us. More than anything, though, they acted as a family—they took care of and looked out for one another, despite their hardships. They were strong, and they were inspiring. 

 

Megan Arnst ’17, physical therapy and sociology major

To be honest, I had no idea what to expect when signing up for Project Homeless Connect. At first, I didn't really considering doing it because I thought it would not be my kind of thing. Then I looked at my schedule and saw that I was free that day, so I decided to take a chance and sign up for it. College is about getting out of your comfort zone, and this experience can help do that.   

During the day at PHC, I helped a man named Keith. He was a near-homeless man so I was able to take him around and find him the resources he needed. He really enjoyed getting his haircut, getting clothes from the Salvation Army, and learning about the resources in his area. While he was eating lunch, I was able to get to know him a little better, and it was very interesting to learn his story. This experience was eye opening, and I would recommend it to future students.

 

Kimberly Ortiz-Marrero ’17, Spanish major

Project Homeless Connect completely changed my life. 

It was only in 2004 that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and the Department of Public Health created Project Homeless Connect (PHC) as a way to bring necessary services to people experiencing homelessness in San Francisco. 

The idea that I had in mind about Project Homeless Connect was totally different once I was there. I thought that we were going to have more homeless people than volunteers because that is what happened in previous years, but it was the other way around. There were more volunteers than homeless people, which is a good thing because it meant that there were fewer people homeless this year. 

I had the opportunity to help a 20-year-old girl get a new social security card, physical, birth certificate, and new shelter because it was her last day at the place she was staying. Everything was going smoothly. My classmate and I filled out the paperwork for her social security card, a physical for her license, and last but not least, for a new place for her to spend the night. This last thing was the hardest thing of all. We went to different organizations to find a new place for our person but many of the answers were “I am sorry but we only help single moms,” or “I am sorry we only help families,” or “My apologies but we are not an emergency shelter.” All of the “no’s” were frustrating. I had mixed emotions about the situation and I did not really understand what was going on. Then I felt an urge to cry and I did not really understand why, but then it hit. I couldn’t believe that a 20-year-old girl, basically my own age, was not going to find a warm place to spend the night. 

It hit like a rock. I used to complain about little things like “I need to get new shoes because I don’t like mine anymore” while others are worrying about bigger things such as finding a warm place to stay. It taught me about appreciation and not taking my blessings for granted because there are other people in the world that are going through worse situations than I am.

 

In addition to the students above, Laurel Brown ’17, Elanora Dovat ’18, and Olivia Poltonavage ’18 also attended Project Homeless Connect.