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Morrisville State College students reach out, participate in National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week

Architectural students, volunteers to sleep out in hand-made shelters to raise awareness
MORRISVILLE, NY—Morrisville State College students are among volunteers who will gain a sense of what it feels like to be homeless when they sleep out overnight in handmade shelters.

Their effort, spearheaded by the Nutrition and Dietetics Department, is just part of what faculty, staff and students on the Morrisville State College campus are doing to raise education, action and awareness about hunger and homelessness during National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, Nov. 14-20.

Morrisville State College is among churches, schools, and service agencies partnering to address the issue in Madison County, collaborating with the Community Action Partnership (CAP) of Madison County.

Community members will also join the effort on the Morrisville State College campus, sleeping in cardboard boxes and makeshift shelters.

The national recognition week is being held to raise awareness that hunger and homelessness are community problems which can be addressed through activities that foster greater community solidarity and understanding.

“People may not realize that the issue of hunger is very prevalent in our own community,” Jodee Osborne, coordinator for the Nutritional Outreach Education Program (NOEP) at CAP of Madison County, said. “We hope holding events throughout the week will open the eyes of those who think there aren’t any poor people here.”

Despite what some think; it is a reality. In just the past 12 months, 14 active food pantries in Madison County have served more than 14,000 households, Osborne said. It’s a statistic that’s on the rise.

“Pantry usage as a whole has been increasing as the economy worsens,” Osborne said. “We are seeing people we have never seen before; those who don’t qualify for food stamps who have to use the pantries as a food resource.”

While it may not be as visible, homelessness is also a growing concern.

“People don’t always recognize the issue of homelessness because the definition varies from person to person,” Osborne said.

While there is no single clear definition of “homeless,” many think of homeless as those living in shelters or on the streets. But it could also mean people living with relatives or others in overcrowded or substandard housing; those facing imminent eviction from their current housing with nowhere to go; and those living in cars, trailers, or campgrounds.

Students in associate professor Anne Englot’s Architectural Design I class, will soon gain a better understanding just what it means, along with Osborne, who will be sleeping out in a cardboard box alongside them.

“I want to participate and talk about what this felt like, even if it was only for one night,” said Osborne, who will also be fasting for 24 hours to add a better understanding to her experience.

After researching rural homelessness, students in Englot’s class have begun designing their individual makeshift shelters on a shoestring budget. Twenty-five dollars won’t get them far so innovativeness, like using donated and recycled materials, scraps and castoffs, will be an important consideration in their design.

They have some rules and guidelines to follow along the way. The shelters, which will vary in shape and size, must be habitable, portable, resistant to moisture and cold, provide light and ventilation to the interior, and must be aesthetically pleasing.

On Nov. 17, students and volunteers will realize firsthand the difficulties that homeless people face every day, when they sleep out in their shelters overnight on campus. Set up will begin at 2 p.m. in front of Galbreath Hall. The sleep out begins at 7 p.m. until 6 a.m. the following morning.

Their experiences will be documented in an hourly journal they are required to keep.

Students on other parts of the campus are reaching out into the community during National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week too. They held a competition to see which residence hall could collect the most items for a hunger and homeless hygiene challenge. The goal was to combine all donations and fill an 18-gallon tote with the top 10 most wanted hygiene products by local food pantries.

For a full schedule of local National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week activities and facts about hunger and homelessness in Madison County, go to www.capmadco.org.

Collegiate Science Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) students are reaching out to the community too through their fourth annual “Supplies for the Soul” event. Teaming with local businesses and the Morrisville campus and community, they are collecting non-perishable items to fill 300 holiday baskets for needy families.

They will be hosting a Supplies for the Soul “Day of Giving,” on Friday, Nov. 19 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Hamilton Hall gym. The event, for the less fortunate in the community, will include entertainment and raffles, a children’s zone featuring story time, arts and crafts, face painting and more. Additionally, various clubs, offices and local businesses will be showcasing their services and or products to guests.

Students at the Norwich campus of Morrisville State College recently held a silent auction and bake sale to benefit the needy.

Morrisville State College, one of the most technologically advanced colleges in the nation for its ThinkPad University program and wireless technology initiative, offers more than 80 bachelor and associate degrees and options.

The Morrisville State College Norwich Campus offers associate degree programs in accounting, business, computer systems technology, office administration, liberal arts transfer, nursing, early childhood, criminal justice and human services to south central New York residents and employers. Students may also apply coursework to other associate or bachelor degrees at the Morrisville campus.

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