Student Tent City to Focus on Homeless Experience

first_imgBURLINGTON, Vt.Champlain College students plan to spend the week of Nov. 17-21 learning about what conditions are like for a growing number of families and individuals who have lost their home. Some 180 students have already made the commitment to sleep in tents on the Aiken green on campus and attend workshops and seminars to learn about social services and the underlying reasons related to homelessness. A series of workshops and lectures will also explore the issue throughout the week.The fourth annual Tent City is being held during the national observance of Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week, according to Ashley George, service coordinator for the Center for Service and Civic Engagement at Champlain College. Each year, the week before Thanksgiving, the National Coalition for the Homeless (www.nationalhomeless.org) helps to organize events across the country to take part in a nationwide effort to bring greater awareness to the problems of hunger and homelessness.We are working hard this year to emphasize the educational aspect of Tent City. We are not trying to simulate being homeless, but rather to raise the overall awareness of our students, staff and faculty about the challenges people are facing in these economic times, George explained. This year, more students signed up to spend a night or more in the tent city on the campus Aiken Green than in year’s past, George noted, and organizers had to limited the number of overnight participants to 60 students per night. Students will also be able to experience a typical soup kitchen menu at the dining hall with a limited menu similar to those often served in homeless shelters and food shelves. Events like this are tremendously important to helping the community understand the issues of homeless people, said Deb Bouton of the Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS). We can’t do the work we do without the support of the community and an event like this one by Champlain College students is amazing. Bouton said COTS is already facing long waiting lists for shelter space for families and individuals and expects the need to grow as winter weather arrives. A series of workshops and seminars will complement the Tent City experience, George said. There will also be a fund-raising aspect to the weeks event with students collecting donations to help the Committee on Temporary Shelter with its community programs. Last year, students raised nearly $2,500 for COTS. Champlain College Tent City guest speakers every evening at 8 p.m.: Monday, Nov. 17: Former Champlain College students will talk about planning the first Tent City. Tuesday, Nov. 18: The Poverty Wall, an interactive activity will explore the stereotypes that surround people who are homeless. Wednesday, Nov. 19: Patrick De Leon, the drop in Coordinator at Spectrum Youth and Family Services, will speak about youth homelessness issues in Vermont. Thursday, Nov. 20: A panel of staff and clients from COTS (Committee on Temporary Shelter) will speak about the experiences of individuals and families who are homeless in Vermont. What are the real barriers to housing in Burlington and in Vermont? There will also be time for questions and comments at the end. A candle light vigil on Aiken green will directly follow the speakers at 9 p.m.Champlain College Tent City daytime activities and workshops: Monday, Nov. 17, 2 to 3:30 p.m. in Hauke Lounge Social Service Office- Mock intake procedure, anyone is welcome to come meet with a social worker to experience the process of applying for food stamps, Section 8 housing, and other services. Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2 to 3 p.m., meet at Tent City on Aiken green – Walk to COTS Shelters, students will walk to one of the COTS family shelters as well as the daytime and overnight shelters for Individuals. Wednesday, Nov. 19, 1 to 2 p.m. in Hauke Lounge Staff from the Vermont Workers Center will come to discuss issues such as Healthcare and Livable Wage and how they impact people that are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Thursday, Nov. 20, noon at the Tower Room at the IDX Student Life Center, Brown Bag Lunch focusing on poverty and homelessness with a guest speaker from COTS. This event is sponsored by The Office of Diversity and Inclusion.All events are free and open to the public. To learn more, contact Service Coordinator Ashley George at the Center for Service and Civic Engagement at Champlain College, (802) 383-6632. Or by email at [email protected] To learn more about COTS, visit www.cotsonline.org or call 864-7402. Champlain College was founded in 1878 and currently has nearly 2,000 undergraduate students. To learn more about Champlain College, visit www.champlain.edulast_img read more