Homeless in St. Louis: Students aim to boost awareness of local poverty

| Staff Reporter

Freshman Tori Bawel stands under the Underpass with a cardboard sign Tuesday morning to promote Homelessness Awareness Week.Ben Gottesdiener | Student Life

Freshman Tori Bawel stands under the Underpass with a cardboard sign Tuesday morning to promote Homelessness Awareness Week.

National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week aims to educate the nation about the growing percentage of homeless and perpetually hungry members of the population, a message that The Alliance of Students Against Poverty has brought to Washington University.

The student group feels especially compelled to get its message across this year, with so many more people facing economic hardships than in the past.

“Our main purpose [for Homelessness Awareness Week] is, as the name says, awareness and education,” said junior Christine Weingarten, president of the Alliance of Students Against Poverty (ASAP). “Most of the events involve communities in St. Louis that are only miles away. We hope by making people aware, we can break down stereotypes and motivate people individually to take action outside of the events going on this week.”

The national week is coordinated by the National Coalition for the Homeless.

According to Professor of Education Carol Camp Yeakey, there are several subpopulations of homeless people in St. Louis, including veterans, runaway youth, the unemployed, single women with children, those with mental illnesses and those with drug or substance abuse issues.

Yeakey also said that there are more homeless people than in past years because of the recession.

“There is a new group which I call the ‘working poor’ who have never been homeless before but are now sleeping in cars or shelters, who cannot afford permanent housing,” Yeakey said.

Highlights of this year’s Homelessness Awareness Week include a photo documentary project in collaboration with The Bridge, a local sanctuary for homeless and at-risk persons in downtown St. Louis.

The Bridge is the outreach arm of the Centenary Church of St. Louis.

ASAP has collaborated with The Bridge many times in the past. This year, people at The Bridge will be given cameras, and their pictures will be displayed on campus.

Other events scheduled for this week include a food/toiletries drive, a hunger banquet and a holiday dinner.

ASAP is cooperating with SIR, the International and Area Studies honorary, as well as the Social Justice Center, for the hunger banquet.

While Yeakey said that there are social service agencies and shelters to help the homeless, she expects the availability of these programs to decrease.

“With the election of a more conservative Congress, many social service programs will begin experiencing even more severe budget cuts, which will impact the social services available to the homeless and other vulnerable populations in our society,” Yeakey said.

  • Jerome Bauer

    I am glad that Student Life and WashU students pay attention to homeless people every week before Thanksgiving. I am glad our students volunteer in soup kitchens and invite homeless people to pot luck dinners. Why not provide homes?

    This summer I hosted (under the auspices of the WashU CoOp) political meet’n’greets for ALL the 64th District state representative candidates, of ALL parties (all but Republican Patricia Verde accepted). I flyered extensively (at my own expense) in the Skinker DeBaliviere neighborhood, including blocks almost entirely owned by WashU and administered by Quadrangle Housing (you can tell by the quadrangle symbol). I was surprised to discover how many houses and housing units in duplexes have been vacant since June. I know this because my flyers have been piling up in the door. Apparently these are not being renovated either (unless the workers are consistently coming in through the back door). They are just sitting vacant, off the tax rolls.

    It’s getting cold in Hopeville and the other St Louis tent cities for the homeless. What do you say, WashU?

    Lecturer Dr. Jerome “riff-raff” Bauer
    –co-founder and resident member, Washington University Cooperative Network, 2003—
    –who narrowly escaped foreclosure and homelessness thanks to vigorous student activism
    –WashU neighbor, homeowner, and taxpayer

  • Debra Crowe

    While it’s true that The Bridge began its life as Centenary CARES, an outreach ministry of Centenary United Methodist Church, it has been, since March of 2009, a 501(c)(3) agency. Under both names, we have had a great working relationship with Washington University.
    Debra Crowe
    Communications & Events Coordinator
    The Bridge