Fifty million Americans, one in five children, face hunger in their daily lives as a result of poverty, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless. Two weeks ago, Nov. 12-18, was Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week. Keene State College hosted multiple events throughout the week to help bring awareness to this national issue and to help the effects of poverty and hunger in the Keene community.
The week began with the KSC Community Service Office hosting a tabling event in the L.P. Young Student Center atrium on Monday Nov. 20. This event helped students learn how to get involved with community service opportunities in Keene that serve individuals experiencing hunger and homelessness. Coordinator of Community Service at KSC Jessica Gagne Cloutier said, “Hunger and Homelessness Week is designed to educate the public, draw attention to the problem of poverty and build up the base of volunteers for local anti-poverty agencies.”
A poverty simulation took place Tuesday night in the Mabel Brown Room. Event and Advocacy Coordinator of the Community Service Office Ashley Betancourt said, “The simulation allows individuals to face real life circumstances in 15-minute ‘weeks.’ Students face obstacles such as not being able to pay rent or having to miss work due to not having child care available. Many families depend on an exact amount, and when sudden situations occur, it can throw them off with payments.”
The simulation had an impact on the students who attended. “During the debrief, students expressed feeling grateful for growing up the way they did and reflecting on the difficult experiences many unfortunately have to go through,” said Betancourt.
A student who attended the simulation, KSC sophomore Genie Schowetsky, said, “It was definitely an eye-opening experience. I can’t even imagine going through something that stressful in real life. You could really see how these issues can be like a domino effect for people experiencing poverty.”
However, poverty is not just an issue for families. Betancourt said, “This is an issue that not only occurs on a national, state and local level, but also is something that occurs right here on our campus. Hunger among students does exist and I hope more conversations about this issue begin, as well as strategies to combat it.”
Cloutier also stated, “While homelessness across the state of New Hampshire decreased in 2016, it increased by about three percent in Cheshire county from 2014 to 2016. Student homelessness is worsening in our county as well, with about 30 more students experiencing homelessness than in previous years.”
Students also gathered in the L.P. Young Student Center this week to help Habitat for Humanity members assemble peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to be donated to the Hundred Nights shelter, which is a shelter for those who experience homelessness here in Keene.
The week of awareness continued on Wednesday with people gathering to weave sleeping mats to give to Hundred Nights. On Thursday, the weekly game of bingo in the Night Owl Cafe included special Hunger and Homelessness rounds and prizes.
The week concluded with the Community Service Office tabling again in the Student Center to collect final donations for the Hundred Nights shelter. Cloutier said, “Hopefully, we’ve introduced students to some new information and some new ideas for engaging with local community organizations like Hundred Nights, the Community Kitchen and Southwestern Community Services… I hope as we continue to raise awareness about the opportunities for partnership with these organizations, engagement among students will grow.”
To donate to Hundred Nights, you can make a payment through a link provided on their website.
Rachel Vitello can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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