Service center hosts week of awareness

In Features

Clothing lines were strung from tree to tree with ragged clothes and posters displaying a number of stories and statistics of those affected by poverty.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it is estimated that more than 5 million people do not always have enough food in California.

On a national level, more than 38 million people, about 12 percent of the U.S. population, are food insecure.

Cal State Fullerton’s Volunteer and Service Center dedicated Nov. 13-16 to recognize National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.

This year’s event, held Nov. 15 in the Quad, was focused on the roots of the hunger and homeless status, said Kim Hamon, assistant coordinator of the Volunteer and Service Center.

Members of the group chose to concentrate on economic disparities, psychological disorders and societal views.

“We need to realize it’s a systemic issue and it’s connected to so many different facets of our community, not just like the stereotypes that are always presented about homeless people,” said Zeena Aljawad, 22, project director and a psychology major at CSUF.

Among the signs and cardboard boxes displaying truths of the homeless population were two parked cars on display.

One of them appeared to be older, unwashed and filled with dingy blankets in the backseat with sign that read “stereotypical homeless car.”

The other car was a newer black Honda with fancy shiny rims. Its sign read “non-stereotypical homeless car.”

Displays like this were shown to debunk societal views on homelessness.

The reality is anyone can be affected by poverty and it isn’t something that can always be identified on a surface level.

“In our community we see so many homeless people and we all hold our stereotypical view of them like on a corner with a sign maybe, but this event is to raise awareness that these individuals have stories they aren’t out here just because they’re lazy,” said Hamon.

The event on Nov. 15 consisted of a panel of various local organizations that serve the homeless community, including Pathways of Hope and HIS House Homeless Intervention Shelter.

Some members experienced homelessness in their own lives.

A few students took the time to hear and listen to what the panelists had to share.

“I don’t know how people can walk by and not pay attention,” said Ashley Canovas, 21, a radio-TV-film major. “It’s really interesting to see a different side we don’t like to think about.”

Other students in attendance could relate to the poverty issues addressed at the event.

“It hits close to home also because my own family has gone through issues like that, so I can relate,” said Carlos Zelaya, 23, project director and a sociology major.

Making a difference in the homeless community begins with creating connections and recognizing each person’s story, Hamon said.

“By helping out at our center where we go and serve at soup kitchens and at homeless shelters, they (students) can really have that interaction, like break bread with these people and learn about their stories,” she said.

The Volunteer and Service Center continues to reach out to the homeless year round by giving up their time to serve at soup kitchens, holding clothing drives and collecting donations for the Orange County Food Bank.

“Even if it’s one person that I reach, I feel like it makes a difference, it gives me a good feeling but (it’s) also helping people avoid situations that I’ve gone through,” said Zelaya.

If you would like to get involved with the Volunteer and Service Center, visit Fullerton.edu/volunteer.

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