Planning for National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week, An Organizer’s Perspective – By Deirdre Walsh, NCH Intern
Planning events for National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week can seem daunting. What will you do? Will the events be oriented towards service or education? How do you know that you are planning the right type of event? These are all common questions when starting the planning process, but the most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. Last year, over 750 high schools, colleges, community groups, and faith-based organizations nationwide hosted events including clothing drives, speaking engagements, educational films, and voluntarily nights without a home to understand the struggles related to the experience of homelessness. Now it is your turn to look at the impacts of poverty around you, educate yourself, and call your communities to action to help end hunger and homelessness!
The planning process must start off with two major elements. The first is a team to brainstorm and execute programs. Bring together individuals from different backgrounds who share an enthusiasm for helping to end poverty. Volunteers can be individuals who donate their time to their local soup kitchen, community leaders, and individuals who are or have experienced homelessness. Their commitment to the cause will be a part of everything you do and show others why they too should become involved. The second is a theme. It may be cliché, but the theme is everything! It helps you to clarify your goals and prevents your programming from becoming muddled. This year, the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) is encouraging groups to focus on youth homelessness, in honor of the launch of the National Campaign for Youth Shelter. With only 4,000 shelter beds for as many as 500,000 young people (16-24 years old), NCH recognizes that the time has come for us all to fight for more safe shelter for vulnerable youths in our communities. No matter what aspect of poverty you choose to highlight, a unifying theme is a way to bring your passions and ideas together to make your week a success!
National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is dedicated to education and awareness about poverty-related issues within our local communities and across the nation. Poverty has many different causes and there are a variety of factors affecting those experiencing poverty and homelessness today. It is wise to think outside of the box and go beyond stereotypes to create awareness programs that are diverse, unique, and creative. An important element to planning an educational program is to know your audience. On a college campus, students embrace volunteerism and enjoy making toiletry kits, trail mix packs on-the-go, and sandwiches. Your local community group may want to organize a clothing drive or Oxfam Hunger Banquet while your faith-based organization can host a round table discussion to discuss poverty, its causes, and how it can be eliminated.
Engage your community! Some of the most prevalent needs may be around the corner. Rather than make assumptions, see what your local soup kitchen or community center needs. If you invite a speaker, invite someone who is local and can share experiences within the community. Engagement with local organizations and individuals has the potential to establish long-lasting relationships and service opportunities that can extend your efforts beyond H&H Week. The National Coalition for the Homeless can provide you with many more ideas for events and educational resources. Check out the 2014 manual to be inspired.
Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week brings people together from across the country to educate and promote change for some of the country’s most dire issues. You can be a part of this movement and help your community become a part of the solution. Planning your events is the first step to making hunger and homelessness a thing of the past. After you have planned your events, don’t forget to register them on the NCH website to become part of our national map and let participants in your area and across the country know what you are doing to celebrate Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week 2014!