My name is Lacey Squier and I am the Catalyst Colleague for the DC Hunger and Homelessness service trip. That pretty much just means that I am the University staff person who is in DC with the student "breakers" (spring breakers) with the credit card and/or in case of emergency. Although I do have the option of pulling rank, I sincerely believe in my responsibility to step back and let the student leaders, Jovi and Kaele, take charge. They've been doing an excellent job!
I am sure you'll have an opportunity to hear directly from the students doing the Challenge about their experiences throughout the week, but I wanted to drop a quick note to ensure you all that everyone is safe and doing well! I met very briefly with the group last night to ensure that all were well, and again this morning to follow up after their first sleeping out in DC. It was remarkably humbling to see everyone this morning in such good spirits.
Yesterday when we met with a representative of the National Coalition for the Homeless, they were charged with the following tasks during the Challenge:
- Experience pan handling for at least one hour. (This meant finding cardboard, finding a writing utensil, figuring out what to write on the cardboard, and selecting a location to sit or stand and ask for money from strangers). David, from the Coalition, assured the group that pan handling during the Challenge is not about the money. It is a guaranteed way to get "housed folks" to see and treat you like you are homeless.
- Seek out opportunities to engage in conversation with people who are experiencing homelessness. Ask them where you can get a meal, ask them where to find a shelter, or ask them for their story. This is of critical importance!
- Try applying for a job. List any and all experiences, but do not list an address or a phone number.
- Try asking a restaurant, hotel, or some other business for a free meal, snack, restroom, shower, etc.
- Go to a soup kitchen.
All of these tasks are designed to give students doing the Challenge the chance to interact meaningfully both with others experiencing homelessness and housed people from the perspective of a person experiencing homelessness. The ultimate goal of the Challenge is to get a better understanding of the daily challenges of those who experience homelessness, so we can better provide services and education our communities back home. David challenged the students to focus on learning as much as they can during the Challenge; to really immerse themselves in the Challenge.
I won't share any details that aren't mine to share; I really just wanted to post an update to assure everyone that the students are doing well.
Looking ahead, the Challenge ends tomorrow at 9am tomorrow morning, at which time we will have a final reflection on that experience as a large group. From there we will come back to the hostel, shower, and ready ourselves to head straight out to a day of service with the DC Central Kitchen. You will hear from me again, but students may not have a chance to blog until tomorrow night or Wednesday. Hold tight!