A cluster of tents popped up on the main lawn of Cascadia College this month, and were inhabited for a few hours by students who passed out information and shared knowledge about homelessness. The mock tent city was the culmination of Homelessness Awareness Week at Cascadia.
The week was the result of efforts by Cascadia senior, Atlas Turner, who serves as the student government Director of Health & Sustainability and has experienced homelessness in the past.
“I recognized that students are going through troubles and not talking about it,” Turner said. “I wanted to destigmatize homelessness and make resources more visible.”
In addition to screening a documentary and bringing people from Real Change to campus, Turnerworked with Cascadia’s four-year sustainability program to focus its annual Climate Conversation, which takes place on campus, on the social impact of climate change. Turner also approached full-time faculty member Soraya Cardenas, Ph.D., who designed units for two of her sociology courses on the topic.
“We examined the impacts of gentrification, dispelled stereotypes about homelessness, and discussed potential solutions,” Cardenas said. “The students put together the tent city themselves and conducted research for their hand-outs. I just fact-checked the sources and showed up to observe.”
Madison Barr, who is enrolled in one of Cardenas’s courses, said the unit made an impact on her.
“I didn’t know how many people who are homeless actually have jobs,” Barr said. “It’s not just people sleeping outside, homeless people includes people who are sleeping in their cars or couch surfing.”
The homeless population on the Eastside of King County has been steadily increasing, and Cascadia College strives to provide resources and support to homeless students. Turner was approached by three students as a result of Homelessness Awareness Week.
“It seems like a problem that’s not only growing quickly but an indicator of how our society is faring in general,” student Timothy Ross said.
Other campus initiatives touched on similar themes. Last week a group of international students prepared and served a meal to homeless families at the Kenmore location of Mary’s Place. A Learning Community co-taught this quarter by Lindsay Custer, Ph.D. and Anne Tuominen focused on social inequity and partnered with organizations including Threads and Treads, Jubilee Reach, and local chapters of the Boys & Girls Clubs, to perform community service.