November is Homelessness and Hunger Awareness month, and Graduate Student Government and other service organizations at USC have many events planned to give students opportunities to give back.
It is easy to remember the things to be thankful for, but this season, it will be just as easy to become aware of issues we are less familiar with and to serve those who are less fortunate.
The month of activities kicked off on November Nov. 4 with a screening of The Soloist, a movie starring Jaime Foxx and Robert Downey Jr., that addresses the issue of homelessness, particularly in the L.A. community.
“I think it went really well, we had a good number of students attend, and some brought donations for our food drive that we’re holding all month long,” said Emma Frances Bloomfield, director of Community Service for GSG.
Bloomfield cites the movie screening as a great way to raise awareness of homelessness and get students motivated to participate in the service projects throughout the month.
“If people missed the screening, we’re having a second showing of the movie on Nov. 13 at the Health Sciences Campus in the Hastings Auditorium, and we hope to see even more people at that one,” Bloomfield said.
More prominent this month will be the opportunities for community service, which GSG has organized along with the Caruso Catholic Center, the SC Homelessness Initiative and the United University Church.
“Every Tuesday this month we’re having sandwich and blanket making at the Caruso Catholic Center,” Bloomfield said. “Students can just show up at 6 p.m. We make the sandwiches with the help of a community organization of nearby women and children, and then we deliver the sandwiches to Skid Row.”
The sandwich delivery to Skid Row presents a unique experience for students to interact with the community surrounding USC and see their service having an actual impact.
“I can’t wait for the sandwich delivery. I just think it’s so important for students to see how the issue of homelessness is so central, not only to L.A. but in our own area — the Skid Row visits really shed light on the issue,” Bloomfield said.
Bloomfield also highly encourages students to participate in the food drive that will be happening this month, citing it as a simple yet impactful way to get involved.
“We’re accepting canned and packaged foods all month, which can be dropped off at the GSG office in TCC 224 or brought to any of the service projects, so that’s another easy way for people to help,” Bloomfield said.
Another way to directly provide essentials to those in need will be the winter aid kit assembly event at the United University Church Peace Center, and then the distribution on Skid Row, both of which will be held on Nov. 24.
“We ask that students donate supplies for the hygiene kits like toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, as well as winter clothes like hats and gloves,” said Vivian Yan, who works with the SC Homelessness Initiative and the United University Church.
Students can also participate in the HomeWalk 5K in Exposition Park on Nov. 23 if they are looking for a more active way to give back. The 5K will not only raise money to fight homelessness, but also give participants a first-hand look at the issue of homelessness in Los Angeles.
“After the walk, participants are invited to join LAPD officer Deon Joseph on a walking tour of Skid Row,” Yan said. “That’s going to be a really great opportunity to see the real issues in that area, he knows so much about it and he will be able to point out where the issues and causes lie.”
Joseph will also speak at the Responsible Volunteerism Workshop on Nov. 20, where he will give students an in-depth look at homelessness in Los Angeles to shed light on some causes of homelessness and the best ways to help.
“There are tons of students who want to help the homeless and hungry, and a lot of times they just resolve that by donating food or clothing, but a simple act like that could have repercussions, so we like to look further,” Yan said.
As a community in such close proximity to those in need, Yan said the university has a unique opportunity to develop a deeply impactful and conscientious method of resolving the issues of homelessness and hunger.
“Just feeding people can lead to trash on the street, leading to a more negative neighborhood atmosphere, so part of what we are trying to do is help people realize the best ways to sustainably help people, like giving them water bottles that they can drink and then recycle for money,” Yan said.
Both Yan and Bloomfield hope that the many events this month will encourage students to familiarize themselves with homelessness and become more regularly involved in serving the community surrounding USC.
“I think that when people come to our events, people will be excited to join in for additional service, it’s all about getting your foot in the door,” Yan said.
Participation in any one of this month’s events is a great way to start getting involved in charity work, and can open doors to more opportunities for service in the future.
“This is a month where we highlight homelessness and hunger, but obviously it’s something that occurs year-round, and a lot of these organizations hold activities year-round that I would really encourage people to get involved with,” Bloomfield said.
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