Student volunteering helps increasing homeless population

Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week at ASU gave students an opportunity to donate food and clothes in order to meet the needs of a growing homeless population.

On Friday, the Barrett Honors College Council will be hosting a “Concert to Benefit the Hungry” in the Barrett Courtyard on the Tempe campus. In addition, on Saturday about 130 students will participate in “Give Thanks by Giving Back,” a charity event organized by ASU Community Service Program. The students will volunteer at Phoenix HomeBase Youth Services and the Salvation Army.

These kinds of group volunteering projects are beneficial for both the volunteers and for the organizations they are helping, said John Landrum, Project Hope director for the Salvation Army.

People who work with Project Hope pick up homeless people wherever they are and drive them to shelters, Landrum said.

Large group volunteering gives nonprofits like the Salvation Army an opportunity to get people involved and a chance to complete large-scale projects, Landrum said. Landrum said the help is needed because Project Hope has served about 5 to 10 percent more people this year than last year during November.

He also said since October they have been serving more women and children than they were during the summer months at the Salvation Army’s Kaiser Family Homeless Shelter.

Increasing numbers of people have been moving to Arizona   with their family without having a definite plan, and he found the trend unsettling. Sometimes people will move out to stay with their family members or because they heard about a job opportunity, but things don’t work out as planned, he said.

“It’s kind of disturbing,” Landrum said.

He said when people become homeless it generally happens fairly quickly and they experience intense anger, confusion and shame.

His organization tries to prevent homelessness by working with people who are about to be evicted, to help pay the rent and utilities, he said.

“Our vision of hope is to have no one experience homelessness,” Landrum said.

The proceeds from the concert will also help meet the needs of the homeless population in the Valley, said James Randall a management intern for the ASU Community Service Program.

The free concert will run from 2 to 5 p.m. Friday. All donations, including canned food and cash from the concert will benefit St. Mary’s Food Bank.

The concert will feature ASU bands and advocates for homeless awareness.

Graduate student Timothy Huffman will be speaking about a $2,000 grant he received through the ASU Innovation Challenge for his organization Stand up for Kids.

The ASU Innovation Challenge grant is an award given to students who want to enact change in their community through entrepreneurship.

Stand Up for Kids is a national nonprofit with a local chapter in Phoenix that works to provide necessities like clothes, food and water for homeless youth 21 and under, Huffman said. Ultimately their goal is to prevent homelessness and get youth off the street.

Huffman received his grant for new ideas on reaching out to youth on the street, by networking with local law enforcement and by using magnets on the sides of cars to let kids know about the organization, he said.

He said entrepreneurship should be applied to social problems because there are alternatives to the “old soup kitchen models” that have been used to deal with homelessness for so many years.

“Inventiveness can solve more problems than, ‘How can I make money off a new product’,” Huffman said.

The number of youth on the street between 2008 and 2009 more than doubled, according to a report prepared by the Arizona Homeless Coordination Office.

On a nightly basis Stand up for Kids can serve from 20 to 60 kids a night, he said.

To meet these needs the application of resources should be reconsidered and used more efficiently, Huffman said.

“It’s not a question of resources…the question is how we can best use those resources,” he said.

Reach the reporter at mary.shinn@asu.edu