“Inform and Empower: A Seminar on Homelessness” was held on Dec. 2 at 9 a.m. This seminar provided attendees with an in-depth look on how to change the way our society views the homeless.
>> For more information, visit:
Volunteer Clearing House: www.colorado/edu/studentgroups/vch
Community Food Share: http://www.communityfoodshare.org/
Colorado Coalition for the Homeless: http://www.coloradocoaliton.org
Boulder Shelter for the Homeless: http://bouldershelter.org/
The Emergency Family Assistance Association: http://www.efaa.org/
Urban Peak: http://www.urbanpeak.org/
StandUp for Kids: http://www.standupforkids.org
Sean Kenney, a member of the President’s Leadership Class (PLC) and also a freshman Spanish and anthropology major, was one of the students who helped put on the event.
“We have gone to great lengths to ensure that this seminar will provide a comprehensive look on the issue, with accurate information and reliable speakers who are intimately involved with the issue,” Kenney said. “Anyone can get involved in some capacity with this issue. The important thing is to take some sort of action and ensure this problem does not remain hidden in our society.”
Elizabeth Dowgin, a freshman psychology major, also helped put on the seminar.
“We needed to do something a little bit more ambitious as far as a community service project,” Dowgin said.
Dowgin said they want to increase community involvement. They realized they needed to empower people to go out and help the homeless but also needed to inform the public about the invisible issue of homelessness.
Matthew Bloise, a junior philosophy major, talked about his work with StandUp for Kids, an organization that directly helps the homeless youth.
Bloise said there are 2.3 million homeless kids under 21, and 13 die each day. In addition to this, the average age for a homeless child is only 9.
“It is very easy to become homeless,” Bloise said.
Regan Garden, a senior psychology major, discussed the problems surrounding homelessness.
“The leading cause of homelessness is the inability to get housing,” Garden said.
Garden said the average price for a two-bedroom house in Denver is $900,064. With this in mind, a minimum wage worker would have to work 144 hours out of a 168 hour week to afford an average two bedroom house in Denver.
Jamie Van Leeuwen, a project manager of Denver’s Road Home talked about his work with the homeless in Denver.
“(Society) has moved into the mindset (that homelessness) is unsolvable,” Leeuwen said.
Leeuwen and his co-workers realized it was costing Colorado $40,000 a year to keep someone homeless. One trip to the emergency room for a homeless person costs Colorado $2,900. Which made them realize, “do we want to manage homelessness or end it?”
Most people don’t realize 40 percent of homeless people are working, Leeuwen said.
Elaina Vereer, director of the Community Studies Center at Naropa University, discussed actions people can take in order to raise awareness about homelessness.
“Organizing is critical because you can do a lot more with 300 people,” Vereer said. “Dialogue is a wonderful, wonderful tool. We often forget to talk to each other.”
Vereer emphasized the difference between charity and social change.
“We really need to work on that continuum from charity to social change,” Vereer said. “The main reason why people don’t engage is because they are never asked.”
Vereer encouraged people to become engaged in spreading homelessness awareness.
“Students are a powerful force to be reckoned with,” Vereer said. “We have to empower ourselves so we can empower others.”