Every year, the College of Mount St. Joseph holds events and dedicates a week out of their semester to raise awareness about the current issue of homelessness. This year, Homelessness Awareness week will fall November 12 -16.
The first event is a Pizza and Ponder meeting. It will be held on November 13 at 12 p.m. and feature speaker Josh Spring. Spring is currently the executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition and is extremely qualified to speak on the issue. According to the website www.cincihomeless.org, Spring “graduated from Xavier University with a Bachelor's in Social Work and is a licensed social worker. (He) came to GCCH from Over-the-Rhine Community Housing and Tender Mercies.”
The following day, November 14, the always anticipated event Shantytown will be held starting at 5:30 p.m. This evening of awareness will be hosted by the Mount’s Campus Ministry Leadership Team. The event allows students to work by themselves or with a team of friends to build a shanty of cardboard on the lawn of the quad. Students are then invited to stay the night in their shanty.
Bethany Gerber, senior at the College of Mount St. Joseph, took part in Shantytown last year. She told us that she learned, “the really simple things that I don't think about and take for granted are really important. On the other side, it made me realize that I don't even need all the material things to make me happy. I still had a great group of friends to be with, even though I was stuck outside in the freezing cold.”
According to Mike Casciato, the Campus Ministry Coordinator, Shantytown has been going on since the 2007-2008 academic year. Mike told us that to him, Shantytown raises awareness to the whole society about the problem of homelessness. It helps, “break down stereotypes of the homeless and who they actually are,” said Casciato. This year, Shantytown will be hosting speaker Lauren Lovette, who experienced homelessness first hand for a short period of time. Casciato told us he was especially excited for Lovette’s talk. “I’ve heard her before and she has a great message,” said Casciato. He also shared that because a lot of people are unable to put a face to homelessness, she is able to do just that through her presence. Casciatio said Lovetee is young and relatable, and “motivational and inspiring.”
Casciato encourages the students to come out for Shantytown. “Spend a night in solidarity with people who can’t afford housing or can’t find a place to sleep at night,” said Casciato.
Following Shantytown will be a reflection service on Thursday, November 15, at 3:30p.m. This will give students an opportunity to share their thoughts on the prior evening.
I asked Casciato what he felt Homelessness Awareness week meant to the school. He said, “It ties in with the mission of the Sisters of Charity to strive to common good.”
I’m sure we can all agree with Casciato. The week certainly ties in with the Mount’s mission. We are, “Catholic academic community grounded in the spiritual values and vision of its founders, the Sisters of Charity. The College educates its students through interdisciplinary liberal arts and professional curricula emphasizing values, integrity and social responsibility,” according to the Mount’s webpage.
By raising awareness and partaking in this event, we are not only developing our spiritual values and mirroring the mission of the Sisters of Charity; we are also keeping with the Mount’s mission and fulfilling our social responsibility to help others however we can.