Sage Students Vow to Make Homeless More Visible to the Community by Asking, “Got Shelter?”

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After working with a local homeless shelter, some college students wage a unique and creative campaign to raise money and awareness for the homeless crisis in the Capital Region.

As this month marks National Homelessness Awareness month across the country, local students at Russell Sage College have undertaken a creative campaign to help fight homeless stereotyping and to bring awareness to the growing issue in their own backyard.

Students of Professor Christine Nealon’s “Women Changing the World (WLD 420)” class spent this semester developing their working knowledge of human rights issues as they relate to homelessness by working with the school’s local community partner, the Joseph’s House & Shelter in Troy, NY. “The objective of the WLD 420 course is to make students aware of ways they can create change both locally and globally, to examine the link between their lives, the production of social values and the relationship of those values to the world around them and to universal human rights,” said Nealon. “This year, I challenged my section of the class to find a way to make a difference for human rights issues that are experienced by the staff and guests of Joseph’s House.”

The class spent the first half of their semester learning about homelessness from the guests and staff of Joseph’s House with a mission to bring about awareness of homelessness in the Troy area and to create change. “As we spoke with the guests of Joseph’s house, we heard the same thing over and over again,” said Patience Davidson, a student and Got Shelter? organizer. “We continuously heard that one of the biggest struggles for the homeless is the invisibility that they face everyday and the lack of understanding from the community that homelessness does not meet a stereotype or discriminate but instead, can happen to anyone, for any reason and at any moment simply through a string of unfortunate incidents.”

It was this profound understanding by students that drove them to develop the “Got Shelter?” campaign. A slogan that they felt best represented the issue and which they felt would make an impact on the public. “The idea was to come up with a slogan that would make people think about the fact that, while they may have a roof over their own head tonight, so many others do not have that basic necessity” stated Meghan Hallenbeck, another student and Got Shelter? organizer. “And, also to make people realize that they could easily be put into the exact same position as these unfortunate individuals who they may pass by on our local streets everyday and turn a blind eye to.”

On a mission of change, students devised a plan to plaster the Got Shelter? slogan across t-shirts with the intention of wearing them and staging a Got Shelter? demonstration in order to drive awareness for their cause. However, it wasn’t long before organizers realized that they could make a larger impact if they were to sell the t-shirts, which would expand their exposure as people across the community brandished the shirts and which would provide useful proceeds to help the shelter.

Got Shelter? T-shirts are available now through November 20th for $12 by contacting student organizers of the campaign at GotShelter (at) sage (dot) edu. Shirts are a 50/50 cotton blend and are available in sizes S-M-L-XL. All proceeds will benefit the Joseph’s House & Shelter in Troy.

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Prof. Christine Nealon
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