S.O.U.L.S Hosts Homelessness Awareness Events Around Suffolk

Lauren Spencer  Journal Staff

Considering Suffolk’s location in the heart of the city of Boston, seeing a man curled up next to a building on a cold winter day or hearing the infamous “Got any spare change?” chant is never uncommon for students.

But almost just as frequently, these homeless individuals are ignored.

During the month of November, Suffolk’s Organization for Uplifting Lives through Service, better known on campus as S.O.U.L.S., is doing their part to help those people out by sponsoring a number of charitable and awareness-raising events in support of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness month.

“I think [this cause is] important everywhere in the United States but specifically for Boston and specifically for Suffolk because of where we are Downtown,” said Caroline McHeffey, Community Partnerships Scholar for S.O.U.L.S.

“There’s just so much homelessness that people encounter and we are definitely taught to have this negative connotation with homelessness. So I think as students who really encounter this issue every single day and pass these people and don’t really know anything about them, it’s almost a responsibility for us to learn more about it. It’s a huge population in Boston and they go very, very unnoticed.”

S.O.U.L.S. has organized many volunteer projects and events taking place throughout the month.

They will be conducting an ongoing food and clothing collection, offering opportunities to volunteer at local homeless shelters, food pantries and shelter kitchens, serving meals at weekly Supper Clubs, and hosting a number of events that will encourage students to be more mindful of the issues they are witnessing every day.

Every Tuesday and Thursday in November, student volunteers will be tabling in the lobbies of the Donahue and Sawyer buildings to bring awareness to the issues of hunger and homelessness. They will also be collecting food and clothing donations at these locations.

S.O.U.L.S. will have their “Make Change” photo exhibit on display throughout the month as well, set up outside their office on the second floor of Donahue. The exhibit will consist of photos and interviews with formerly homeless people, sharing stories about what made them slip into homelessness, everyday challenges they faced and how they transitioned out.

Other major events will include a “Food for Thought” presentation by James Shearer, founder and former Board President of Spare Change Newspaper, and the Oxfam Hunger Banquet.

Taking place in the Suffolk Law School on November 14, the Oxfam Hunger Banquet is an annual event where students from local elementary schools come take part in a role-playing meal. A certain percent of the students will get a poverty level meal while some will get a substantial, full meal and others get something in between.

“Because they’re children getting these meals, the inequalities are very prominent and the students [really] speak up about it,” McHeffey explained.  “Afterwards [we] facilitate a discussion about what the children think about how unfair it was that someone got this and others got [that] and they didn’t have any control over it.”

In addition to these events, S.O.U.L.S. will be positing a fact about hunger and homelessness on their Facebook and Twitter accounts each day to raise awareness as well.

Whether it’s volunteering time at a shelter or simply stopping by a table after class, S.O.U.L.S. is encouraging all students to get involved in some way and to learn more about what is such a prominent issue around the Suffolk community.

“We’ve had a sufficient amount of student involvement [in the past] but I think this year we’re trying to exceed [that] and have an outstanding amount of student involvement,” said Erin Bessette, also a member of S.O.U.L.S.

“I think raising awareness is the most important thing people can do,” McHeffey added. “Homelessness is such a complex issue that sometimes the only thing you can do really is to teach other people about it. I think it’s a very, very worthy cause.”