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Students plan week to help city's homeless

Date: 11/15/2010

Nov. 15, 2010

By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- This week, students from Western New England College (WNEC) have a chance to make a difference to the hungry and homeless in the city of Springfield.

The WNEC student organization called Community Action Rewards Everyone (CARE) will be hosting a Hunger and Homelessness Week on campus, providing education to students on campus regarding the struggles many within the city face on a daily basis with a hands-on approach.

"There are going to be at least four or five opportunities for students to go off campus and into the communities and really put a face to hunger and homelessness," Kevin Joslyn said.

Joslyn, a junior, is the student chairperson of hunger and homelessness for CARE and has seen growth in the interest in Hunger and Homelessness Week over his three years at the school.

"It's been a yearly tradition at least as long as I've been here and every year it's cool to see how it grows," Joslyn said. "Service is really spreading on this campus and this week really piques students' interest."

CARE has created relationships with several agencies and services throughout the city to create an opportunity for students to get involved. Among the activities is a tour of the city where students will get to see homelessness first-hand.

"It will give students a chance to meet people who are living on the street, talk to them and find out their stories," Joslyn said. "It's about creating personal connections with people you don't even know and finding out how you can help them."

Another initiative is one that will extend beyond Hunger and Homelessness Week. Starting this week, students will be visiting the Friends of the Homeless shelter on Worthington Street twice a month, offering so-called "wish-list items", such as toothbrushes, mittens and hats.

Students will also be assisting the Springfield Rescue Mission. In addition, CARE will be conducting a food drive, going to all the apartment complexes on campus collecting non-perishables for Gray House.

Joslyn, who hails from Sutton "a town with just one traffic light" -- and admitted that he has never personally been affected by homelessness. Still, he stressed the importance of students who may not otherwise have been affected by hunger or homelessness realizing the realities of life for the underprivileged and that putting a face to those affected by it helps in that understanding.

"By putting a face to hunger and homelessness, we can show people that those who are homeless are not always what they're made out to be," Joslyn said.

Joslyn added that in his experiences, people's mis-conceptions of these issues has aided in the creation of the negative perception of Springfield. People also have a tendency to focus on the fact that there is homelessness and don't recognize that along with that, there are good people who are looking to help.

"From the work I've done and the research I've participated in, people in Springfield like the city and appreciate the city," Joslyn said. "But people from outside the city have this negative image of Springfield. Those people don't see the amazing things that are going on in the city. They don't see the college students going to the soup kitchen and feeding dozens of people. They don't see the people going out of their way out in the community."

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