Washburn organizations have partnered with the greater Topeka community this week to hold events on campus for nationally recognized Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Nov. 16-20.
Kristine Hart, assistant director of Learning in the Community, said she hopes the events will educate students about these issues.
“We are wanting this week to be educational to all students of what homelessness and hunger looks like,” Hart said. “With this week coming up right before Thanksgiving, it’s great for awareness of the situation.”
Hunger and homelessness affects young adults even on campus. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless in a 2013 survey, 33 percent of homeless individuals were under the age of 24.
Dean Forster, director of Washburn University Police Department, spoke about campus police’s role in helping the homeless students at Washburn.
“We have officers patrolling the campus every night,” Forster said. “If we see a student sleeping in their car, we check in on them. If the student has no choice but to live in their car, we will make other arrangements for them, but we definitely discourage anyone sleeping in their car on campus.”
Forster said that campus police keeps a close eye on the students at risk to make sure they are in safe conditions.
Food insecurity also reaches students on campus. A 2013 survey conducted by The Exchange at Washburn University found that only 20 percent of respondents experienced high food security, while 80 percent of respondents experienced some degree of food insecurity from marginal to very low.
The Exchange, sponsored by Bods Feeding Bods, exists as a resource for these students who experience food insecurity. The on campus food pantry is located on the bottom floor of Henderson and is open from 3 -6 p.m. on Mondays and 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Thursdays.
Hart said that the promotion of The Exchange is also a goal of the week of awareness.
“At this moment, there seems to be a huge increase in the amount of students who come to the pantry in hopes of getting food,” Hart said. “With students getting involved with the events, we hope that more students will be able to donate food and increase the pantry.”
Washburn’s Bonner Leader program and Leadership Institute have partnered with Learning in the Community (LinC), Bods Feeding Bods, Lawrence Community Shelter, Oxfam America, Harvesters and WSGA in support and organization of events this week that are free and open to the public.
The Faces of Homelessness Panel will be from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 17, in Henderson 208 where attendees can hear speakers share their personal experiences with homelessness and poverty.
Students can attend the Oxfam American Hunger Banquet from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 19, held in Washburn Room B. Students who come will be able to receive a meal based on a ticket that they draw. Each ticket represents a certain income level. There will also be a guest speaker at this event.
Finally, from 7 p.m. to midnight on Friday, Nov. 20, students can participate in A Night Without a Home. Participants will sleep on the East Union Lawn and watch “The Pursuit of Happyness” and there will also be a guest speaker.
Since homelessness and hunger is a terrible problem in the world, taking the initiative at Washburn’s campus is a great start to end the problem. For more information about the details about homelessness or hunger and the events this week, call Marija Crockett at (785) 670-1950.