What’s next? Building Hunger and Homelessness Awareness beyond November – Deirdre Walsh
Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week brings together high schools, colleges, community groups, and faith-based organizations in the common cause to educate their communities about poverty in America. The issues of hunger and homelessness, however, are more than a week’s worth of problems for many Americans. Veterans return from war suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder with little support, which too often can lead them to life on the streets. LGBTQ youth are at risk of being rejected by their families and the general public and make up close to half of all unaccompanied homeless youths in America. Women in domestic violence situations are forced to choose between an abusive home or an unstable life without a home. Families are riddled with debt from the lack of housing assistance and affordable healthcare and must decide which bills to pay or buy food for dinner. Poverty has many different faces and the causes of homelessness are just as varied as the people who endure it. The issues of hunger and homelessness cannot be fully understood or addressed in one week. Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is just the start of what you and your local community can do year round.
How can the actions you took this November be continued year round? There are so many great ways! Make volunteering at a local soup kitchen or shelter a part of your weekly or monthly routine by asking a friend to commit to it with you. Create a community forum or book club with regular meetings meetings focused on understanding the social issues relating to poverty. Challenge different organizations to try to out-do your events each month. Make a regular date to have dinner with someone who faces food insecurity. Whatever you are comfortable with, we hope you will commit to this cause and remain an active advocate for those living in poverty.
Addressing the goals of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week can and should be more than a week’s affair, however, starting dialogue and open discussion in your community is the first step. When people are talking about the lack of affordable housing, the criminalization of homelessness, and the discrimination against LGBT homeless youths you know that they can see past the stereotypes and understand the realities homelessness. Over 3.5 million men, women and children will go without a place to sleep and even more will be unable to feed and sustain themselves. Students, community groups and local organizations can work year round to assist and provide needed resources and have the capabilities to engage local civic leaders and policy makers to remove obstacles for America’s poor. Hunger and Homelessness may be one week in November, but the lessons and programs started can be a year round initiative for all. Bring poverty, its hardships and its causes, to the forefront of social and political discussions to give everyone a home this year. Resolve to fight poverty!