Methma is a Volunteer Representative for Swearer Tutoring and Enrichment in Math and Sciences (STEMS). As a VR, Methma helps plan weekly meetings for the tutors, which are intended to provide Brown tutors with tools to work more effectively, through tutoring skills, knowledge of current education policy, discussions on the role of a tutor in a classroom, or information about the Providence Public School system. She is currently tutoring in a physics class.
Fighting Homelessness with Homes not Laws
Allison Woodworth is a co-coordinator for Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE), a student run organization that works to end homelessness in RI.
I grew up in a city that is known for its year-round flip flop weather, military bases, woeful professional sports teams, and its IN-N-OUT franchises. Unfortunately, San Diego’s homeless population ranks fifth in the nation, a large percent of which is made up of veterans.
Many areas in San Diego present a stark visual dichotomy between affluence and homelessness. During my senior year in high school, I witnessed a truly cringe-worthy piece of city history. A so called “community activist” namd Viti attempted to organize people to sit on benches for 3 hour shift outside businesses solely to keep the homeless from doing so.
The San Diego Union Tribune reported that: “Viti oversees a program sponsored by Promote La Jolla, a nonprofit merchants association that coordinates the placement of benches donated by the public. Some donors become upset when they see transients passed out on benches they've dedicated to a loved one, Viti said.”
Viti’s blatant inability to see the homeless as fellow humans horrified me. (Thankfully it horrified a lot of people and her movement was quashed.) It also made me realize how easy it is for communities to dehumanize people that many of us walk by every day. However, I didn’t really start to understand the systematic loopholes that undergird homelessness until I joined Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE).
Mass homelessness in the US is a relatively recent social problem, and it has nothing to do with an increase in lazy people. Rising poverty, lack of affordable housing, deinstitutionalization, public assistance cuts, foreclosure practices, predatory lending and many other structural deficiencies have coalesced in the past half century to make homelessness a sad reality for a growing number of Americans.
Recognizing the structural arrangements that drive homelessness is an important step in humanizing a community that has every right to public space that sheltered people have.
Residents of Silver Lake in Los Angeles complained about frequent public urination by the homeless. The neighborhood responded by creating and disseminating "hygiene maps" of public restroom/shower facilities to the homeless. This is an example of a community that recognized a problem and enacted positive change.
Have you ever wondered why new benches are often built with dividers? These prevent anyone –namely the homeless – from lying prone and sleeping on them. Providence’s Kennedy Plaza was updated with a host of these anti-homeless benches.
The homeless have no personal space to store their possessions, go to the bathroom, sleep, eat, or just hang out. Think about what you do in your own home. Is what you’re doing illegal if you do it in public?
HOPE members are involved in a plethora of advocacy to end homelessness. We work to educate the community about tenant rights and predatory lending practices with our partners at DARE and the Rhode Island Payday Lending Reform Coalition respectively. Members lobby at the statehouse and help those who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, or struggle with mental illness or substance abuse apply for SSDI/SSI applications with SOAR.
So many policies, practices, and renovations waste energy and finances on marginalizing or criminalizing the homeless. We don’t need fences, anti-homeless spikes, bans on publicly feeding the homeless, or bench warming shifts. We need positive solutions that combat structural inequalities.
June 20, 2016
June 13, 2016"I think about opening my mouth to call out goodbye, or to salute her in a traditional sign language farewell. Instead, I stand silently and smile."
Sally Hosokawa is a Community Fellow for Writers’ Group, a Swearer Center Community Program that facilitates creative writing workshops for adults with developmental disabilities. She studies literary translation in the Comparative Literature Department.
May 14, 2016“Club teachers understand us,” she says. “Even though they’re older, they’re not that much older, and so they’re like us and we can identify with them and talk to them about our problems.”
Addy is a volunteer with the Brown Elementary Afterschool Mentoring Program (BEAM), a Swearer Center community partnership that facilitates after-school programing activities and mentorship between Brown volunteers and students at William D’Abate Elementary School in the Olneyville neighborhood.
February 22, 2016
Pia is a junior double-concentrating in Education Studies and Comparative Literature. This is her third year with Writers' Group, a Swearer Center Community Program that offers creative writing workshops for adults with developmental disabilities, and her first year as a Swearer Center Community Fellow.
February 19, 2016I was intrigued by the program, but very intimidated by some of the topics. I’ve never been in the position to talk about gender or sexuality or rape culture.
Tiara came into Brown dead set on studying Neuroscience. After a summer or working with the local Planned Parenthood branch and taking health based classes she realized public health was her real calling. She has been volunteering for the SHAPE (Sexual Health Advocacy through Peer Education) program since sophomore year.
February 16, 2016