Students become homeless for a week

Melissa Takaaze/Sun Star Reporter
November 20, 2012

Students Martin Harrington (L) and Christina Drumhiller (R) from the UAF Honors Student Council warm themselves up as they help raise awareness for the homeless during “Homeless and Hunger Awareness Week” at the Constitution Park on Nov. 14, 2012. Fernanda Chamorro/Sun Star

They’ve endured awkward glances, a few smiles, a couple dollars here and there, but mostly stares.  Last week, students voluntarily endured the Interior Alaska winter in day and night shifts to raise awareness about homelessness for a local charity.

Each year the UAF Honors Student Council coordinates volunteers to take shifts living in UAF’s own “Tent City” in honor of Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week.  Around 20 students took turns volunteering at a makeshift shanty in Constitution Park last week, while students and faculty walked past, caught up in schedules and daily routines.

During the day, volunteers never ventured farther than a few feet from the burn barrel, their only source of heat in the sub-zero temperatures.  Eventually, the volunteers ventured into the tent to sleep.  In the morning, the process restarted.  Throughout the week temperatures ranged from -14 °F to 8 °F.

In 2008, Alaska’s homeless rate was 0.24 percent, ranking it tenth in the U.S. in concentration of homeless people, according to the Alaska Justice Forum.  However, since then the homeless rate has increased. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation,  estimates that in 2010, the total U.S. homeless population was about 649,917.  That same year, In 2010, Alaska’s homeless population was 1,863, which was a homeless rate of 0.28 percent.

Jeremiah Harrington, president of the Honors Student Council and event coordinator, said that Homeless Awareness Week is held annually to increase awareness of homelessness and to collect donations. Students live in a homeless camp in the middle of campus, according to Harrington.  “I can’t think of a better way to build awareness,” Harrington said.

Last year, the Honors Student Council donated about $1,000 to the Street Outreach and Advocacy Program. This year’s the group raised over $800 and it will go to the Fairbanks Rescue Mission, a local non-profit that provides emergency shelter and recovery programs for people in need.

“We want to thank everyone who donated and supported us,” Harrington said at the Honors Student Council meeting.

Sophomore biochemistry student and member of the Honors Student Council, Stacy Krepel said she has always been aware of charity and social issues and participating in the event has given her perspective on homelessness.

 “If you can’t get a fire going, you’re going to be cold for two hours, but homeless people are cold all day,” Krepel said. This was Krepel’s second year participating in Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week.

On Saturday Afternoon, UAF’s tent city was dismantled and taken down.  The Honors Student Council hopes to hold the even annually and resurrect their tent next year.

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1 Response

  1. John Romaine says:

    Things like this really make you realise just what’s important in life.

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