Homelessness panel provokes questions

    Two formerly homeless men spoke to a room of 25 people on Thursday night about the struggles they faced. “Faces of Homelessness” at the University Campus Ministry was co-sponsored by the ministry, along with the Living Wage Campaign, In Technicolor and Interfaith Youth Core’s Better Together campaign.

    Antoine Smith and Charles Jenkins from The Speakers Bureau, a part of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, spoke about issues like drug addiction, prostitution, rape, sexual orientation, suicide and illiteracy. They encouraged students to be politically active and help people on the street.

    Jenkins told the group about how his addictions slowly took control over other areas of his life.

    “Do I pay my bills?” he said. “Do I get high? Do I pay my rent? Do I eat, even?”

    He and Smith, who goes by the nickname “Rabbit,” emphasized that anyone, even people from wealthy backgrounds, may wind up homeless one day. A large part of the talk addressed students’ questions, which covered advice like giving homeless people meals and listening to what they have to say.

    Smith, who still struggles with self-mutilation and suicidal thoughts, said that while homeless, he missed having people to talk to. Smith’s mother kicked him out of the house when he was in high school after learning that he was gay.

    Leaders of the student groups involved wanted more of campus to be aware of these issues.

    “Our job as students and as human beings is to empathize and be active about creating a more egalitarian society,” said Communication senior Derrick Clifton, In Technicolor board chair. “This is something all the [co-sponsoring] groups can agree on.”

    Hana Suckstorff, a Weinberg senior and a peer minister at the University Campus Ministry, stressed the importance of issues like homelessness to faith-based communities on campus.

    The minister went on to speak about social justice in general. Suckstorff said that people who go to the ministry, most of whom are Christian, believe that they need to help with such issues.

    “Jesus had social justice tattooed on his forehead,” she said.

    Representatives from all four groups emphasized the need for people on campus to look beyond their comfort zones and the environments where they were raised. Jenkins and Smith felt similarly, challenging audience members to get involved.


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