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.

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.

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