LAUDERDALE-DAVIE, Fla. – If you’ve turned on the TV news or read the newspaper, chances are you’ve seen the story about the homeless in the City of Fort Lauderdale. The attention this has generated-locally, nationally and internationally-has highlighted a number of factors related to the issue of homelessness. The timing couldn’t be better, as Nov. 17-20 is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.
The student group Alpha Phi Omega and the Office of Student Leadership and Civic Engagement at Nova Southeastern University (NSU) have prepared activities to take action and create awareness during this week. Activities feature programs about social issues affecting those in need in Broward County and around the world.
Among the most significant events of the week was the Oxfam America Hunger Banquet. This event took place at the Don Taft University Center Arena on Nov. 17. When guests arrived, they drew tickets at random that assigned each to a high-, middle-, or low-income tier—based on the latest statistics about the number of people living in poverty. Each income level received a corresponding meal. The 20 percent in the high-income tier were served a sumptuous meal; the 30 percent in the middle-income section ate a simple meal of rice and beans; and the 50 percent in the low-income tier helped themselves to small portions of rice and water. NSU also had representatives from community affiliates whose work centered on hunger awareness to facilitate conversation as well as help in group reflection at the tables.
“Homelessness is a problem that plagues our community, county and country. NSU students participating in these events want to make a difference and help change the sobering statistics that remind us every day how many people are living without food and shelter,” said Aaron Hackman, assistant director of student leadership and civic engagement at Nova Southeastern University.
Other events include:
Wednesday, Nov. 19:
Hunger and Homelessness in Broward County Panel
4:30– 6 p.m. Location, NSU, Carl DeSantis Building, Room 1047
Representatives of local community affiliates including the HOPE Outreach Center and Broward Regional Health Planning Council’s Dania Beach Garden Patch had a panel discussion about hunger and homelessness in Broward County, and also fielded questions from students interested in learning more about ways they can get engaged.
Thursday, Nov. 20:
Movie: Pursuit of Happyness
6-9 p.m. Location: NSU University Center Performing and Visual Arts Theater (PVA)
NSU will be showing the film Pursuit of Happyness (2006, starring Will Smith) that describes the real-life struggle of a man and his son and how they dealt with homelessness. Following the film, students will discuss the movie and different ways they can continue to take action.
Over the past five years, NSU has emerged as a leading university for healthcare for the homeless and other diverse populations. Students from NSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine (COM) have been involved in Project H.O.P.E. (Homeless in Osteopathic Pre-doctoral Education) with the main goal of improving student and professional perceptions and attitudes by providing homeless-specific core lectures (facilitated in part by unsheltered individuals), service-learning opportunities, and clinical field rotations in facilities serving individuals experiencing homelessness.
Most recently, Project H.O.P.E. developed a partnership with the TaskForce for Ending Homelessness, Inc. in Broward County. The latter provides outreach services to the homeless via two mobile units that venture out into the local community two times each day, 365 days a year. In addition to COM doctoral students, students in NSU’s physician assistant, nursing, occupational therapy and master of public health programs are now benefitting from the experience of volunteering in the mobile outreach vans serving individuals experiencing homelessness right in our collective backyard.