Events mark hunger, homelessness week

by Jenn Coffey | 11/13/01 6:00am

As students prepare to travel home for Thanksgiving, many local families are wondering if they will have food and shelter for the holiday.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than eight percent of New Hampshire households aren't sure where their next meal will come from, and 44 percent of families cannot afford fair market rent.

In order to bring awareness to the problem, this week has been designated Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.

"It's a time when we are about to eat a lot, a good time to think about what we are thankful for," said Jan Tarjan, an associate dean of the Tucker Foundation.

Dartmouth is hosting several events this week to raise awareness of the problem

The week began with Sunday's "Raise the Roof" benefit concert for Habitat for Humanity, featuring Sheba, Steppin Out and the Dog Day Players.

"The concert kicked off the week and let people know what was going on," said Jennifer Rottman '02.

The event raised $300, money that will be put toward the '04 house to be built for a local family this summer.

On Thursday, Professor Susanne Freidburg will lead a dinner discussion entitled "War, Refuge and Food Relief."

"This is especially important given the events right now," said Tarjan.

The discussion will mark the start of a day long fast, ending with Friday's Break-Fast Dinner. In addition to learning how it feels to go hungry, students will make a donation based on the amount of money that they would have spent on food.

These donations, along with the other money raised this week will go to four charities. Two of them, Oxfam America and the National Coalition for the Homeless, are national organization, whereas the other two, the Listen Center and the Haven, are local.

The goal of the week, however, is not only to raise money. Clothing and cans of food are also being collected, and the main objective is to promote awareness of hunger and homelessness issues on campus.

"We're trying to spread the word to more people that they can make a difference, and that a difference needs to be made," said the week's coordinator, Melanie Fox '03.

An important part of the effort to draw attention to the cause is a candlelight vigil that will take place Saturday night on the lawn of Blunt Hall. A sleep-out, in which students experience what it is like to be homeless on a cold night will take place following the vigil.

One person who has already seen the effects of homelessness first hand is Jethro Rothe-Kushel '03. After receiving a freshman summer grant, Rothe-Kushel, created a documentary on a homeless community in Los Angeles. The film, "Pharoah's Streets: Homelessness and Voices of Providence in the City of Angels 2000 C.E," will be shown tonight.

Homelessness is not only a concern in urban areas, however. It is a growing problem in New Hampshire. In 2001 the New Hampshire shelter system served 6272 people and turned away over 9000 more because it was full beyond capacity. The average number of nights in a shelter stay also rose to 38 this year, up from 14.3 in 1992, and there was a 50 percent increase in the number of couples using emergency shelter.

"We want to show that it is a problem in this area and nationally," said Rottman.

The week will conclude with a 5K Race Against Hunger Saturday on the Green.

All of the week's events are open to the public and everyone is encouraged to participate.

"If you donate a can, it will be somebody's dinner next week," Fox said.