Concordia will host a new awareness week
Students can share a meal that highlights the discrepancy between different financial situations, hear from community members working closely with the issue of homelessness or spend the night outside to reflect on this issue during Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week Nov. 15 through 21.
Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is recognized nationally, but this will be the first year Concordia hosts a local event for the national occasion.
“It’s a week to bring awareness to people all over the country,” said Lead Commissioner of Campus Service Commission Haley Larson. “Our goal is to provide different events or activities on campus to bring awareness that homelessness occurs in the Fargo-Moorhead area.”
Better Together, Campus Service Commission, Campus Ministry Commission, Social Justice and Habitat for Humanity will be working together to help facilitate events throughout the week.
“We want to try to bring together students in the community to be able to understand homelessness better so it’s a less abstract concept,” said Campus Ministry Commission Co-Commissioner Wes Kimball.
Larson said that homelessness can impact friends, neighbors, relatives and possibly some students at Concordia. Co-president of Better Together Rosina Halverson-Studer said that homelessness happens for more than just the stereotypical reasons.
“It’s not an issue that is confined to people who are lazy or struggle with substance abuse,” Halverson-Studer said. “It can happen to anyone.”
The evening of Nov. 15 in Jones A-B, there will be training for students who want to help with church sheltering. Each week throughout the winter months, different churches in the Fargo-Moorhead area provide places to sleep for the people who overflow from shelters. In order to help with this, students need to be trained on how to handle different situations they may encounter during their shift. Halverson-Studer hopes students will serve throughout the week, and even in the future.
“I’m really excited to see students engage with this in a way that’s more tangible than it’s been in the past,” Halverson-Studer said. “I’m excited to see what people gain from this.”
Monday at 7 p.m., there will be a Hunger Banquet in Jones A-B. At the beginning of the event, individuals will receive a card that describes their hypothetical financial situation. The description on the card will state a poverty level, which dictates where participants sit and what they eat will. Larson said the purpose of this event is to bring awareness to the discrepancy between different levels of poverty.
Kimball said the purpose of the Hunger Banquet is to try to replicate how people who are homeless are experiencing hunger. They want to address the different levels of privilege.
“When you eat in DS you don’t necessarily think about those who don’t know when their next meal will be,” Larson said.
Tuesday in the Centrum at 7 p.m., there will be a panel of four or five different community members who will speak about the work they do in the community with homelessness.
Wednesday chapel and communion services will focus on homelessness. Pastor Sue Koestermann from Elm Lutheran Church in Fargo will speak at chapel and the Rev. Elly McHan will be speak during communion.
On Thursday, there will be a documentary showing of “Lost Angels: Skid Row is my Home” in Olin 124 at 7 p.m. The documentary is about eight people who are homeless and living in Skid Row, Los Angeles, which has one of the highest populations of homeless people in the United States.
Friday, there will be a campout from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. by the Bell Tower. This will be hosted by Habitat for Humanity. Students who wish to sign up for a Justice Journey or would like to participate in the campout are welcome. In order to participate, students need to sign up for this and can do so at the Better Together table in the Atrium either Nov. 9-3 or 16-20. Participating in this is a way to trigger different conversations and ask why homelessness is an important issue to act on, said Halverson-Studer.
“It’s not about trying to experience what it’s like to be homeless for one night because there’s no way you can replicate that,” Halverson-Studer said. “It’s more of the visual impact for those walking by and those who are participating can reflect on what it’s like to be homeless.”
“This is just a really small fraction of what it’s like to be homeless,” Larson said.
Saturday will be a service day. Students can sign up for a bell-ringing shift that lasts two and a half hours. There will be eight to 10 locations in the Fargo-Moorhead area that students have the option to sign up for. Students can sign up for this at the CSC table in the Atrium throughout Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Proceeds from bell ringing will go to Salvation Army to feed residents.
“The overall goal is to raise awareness but also to motivate people to take action and question the systems they’re a part of,” Halverson-Studer said.
There will be a table in the Atrium the week of Nov. 9, where students will be able to sign up for events for the following week.
During Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, CSC will have a table in the Atrium for the Empty Mug campaign. Students can purchase raffle tickets to place in a mug that has been decorated by one of 10 faculty or staff members. For $1, a student can put their raffle ticket into one cup. For $4, they can place their ticket in five cups. When students purchase a raffle ticket, they will receive a packet of hot chocolate, tea or cider that has been donated by Costco. At the end of the week, CSC staff will draw names to see who has won each mug.
The proceeds from the Empty Mug campaign will provide meals to homeless people through Salvation Army or Churches United.
“We’re hoping to raise a lot of money to go to a good cause,” Larson said.
Throughout the week, the walkway from Knutson to the Bell Tower will have signs posted that display statistics on homelessness both in the Fargo-Moorhead area and the whole country.
“I’m excited to see how it all plays out,” Kimball said. “I hope it can impact the student body as much as I want it to.”
The events will be funded through the pooling of resources between organizations.
The idea for this event on campus developed during the May internship put on by SGA for different student organization leaders. Among these students were Halverson-Studer from Better Together, Larson from CSC, Kimball from CMC, Anna Smith from Campus Ministry and Better Together, Justin Marquette from Better Together and Evan Berg-Dibou from Habitat for Humanity.
Halverson-Studer had a personal interest in furthering the awareness of homelessness before creating the event at Concordia. She had an opportunity to go to Churches United, which is a part of the church sheltering program run through the Fargo Moorhead Coalition for the Homeless, this past summer. When she was driving home, she had to pull over because she was sobbing.
“I felt so awful for not taking notice of these people,” Halverson-Studer said.
Her experience lead her to push for the event, and many people were more than willing to partner with her to make Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week happen.
“It’s been a really great reminder that other people care about this,” Halverson-Studer said.
Larson and Halverson-Studer recommend that all students, faculty and staff participate.
“I think knowledge is power and when we are able to recognize some of these issues that are in our own communities we can better understand and act on these issues,” Larson said. “It’s really easy to get into the mindset of that Concordia bubble and making a difference and being done with it. These are topics we feel should be in daily conversation.”
Anna Erickson is a Multimedia Journalism major and an Art and Writing minor. She is from Alexandria, Minnesota and is a part of Concordia’s class of 2017. She is also a lifeguard, swimming lessons teacher and member of CEC. She loves photography, writing, and being on the lake.