Students share homeless concerns

by Tara Kyle | 11/2/00 6:00am

While their classmates cheered on the athletic teams and watched freshmen dash wildly around the bonfire, five Dartmouth students spent their Homecoming weekends engaged in a far more serious topic -- attending the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homeless Conference.

Jennifer Rottman '02, Christopher Taylor '01, Atteeya Hollie '02, Simon Han '02 and Kathleen McDermott '03 made the trip to the Maryland conference, which hosted students from 130 colleges. The trip was coordinated through the Tucker Foundation.

"I would have liked to be here for Homecoming, but I felt this was more important," Taylor said.

The conference's program included workshops on high school and elementary education in homeless and hunger issues, panelist discussions and a keynote speech from author Jonathan Kozol -- whose name Dartmouth students may recognize from their Education 20 syllabus.

Rottman did not have to leave campus to participate, as she is spending her off-term working as a civil rights intern at the National Coalition for the Homeless. Rottman learned about this organization through her work with Habitat for Humanity at Dartmouth, which she serves as chair of this year.

Taylor also has had substantial prior experience with homeless issues. Through the Mickey Leland Hunger Fellowship Program, he was able to split six months of off-campus time between work with a Meals on Wheels branch in southern Ohio and at the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington, D.C.

While Rottman and Taylor felt that the College does supply students with ample opportunity to get involved, they expressed concern that awareness of social issues could be higher, and that many students don't take advantage of the resources.

"I think some people get overwhelmed. They don't know how to get involved, so they sort of tune out," Taylor told The Dartmouth.

"I wish there was more awareness; it's hard because Dartmouth's rural. It's not as in your face as in the cities -- that doesn't mean there isn't a need," Rottman said.

However, Rottman did note, "I realized at the conference talking to other students that we are fortunate to have [the Tucker Foundation].

A lot of schools don't have that sort of umbrella organization for community service. Even though we might have more apathy, we're lucky to have that base of operation to confront this and work for more awareness."

Both students expressed an interest in working in the area of homeless advocacy after college. Rottman said that last weekend's conference and her internship helped to clarify how she can be most effective. "It's a lot easier to keep a family from becoming homeless than to get a person off of the streets."

Taylor said that while he enjoyed hands-on activities, he thinks he could accomplish more by working on policy concerning hunger and homelessness from Capitol Hill.

"These issues really result from the way our economy and political process are structured, and I'd like to work to change that."