This past weekend Sandeepa and I made a visit (behind enemy lines!) to Stanford University. The reason: a small group of very dedicated students hosted an informational session about a shelter they are starting up in Palo Alto. We have had some very preliminary talks about starting a shelter here in Berkeley as an extension of The Suitcase Clinic, and we figured this informational session would be useful for us to attend.
The first thing that struck me was the amount of people in attendance; I counted at least thirty students. A sense of optimism and enthusiasm was palpable throughout the info session. I could tell that these students were determined to create a student-run shelter for the unhoused, and that they will continue to work tirelessly until they accomplish their goal. During the brainstorming portion of the session, a lot of great ideas were proposed and I could tell they are certainly headed in the right direction. They plan on opening their undergrad-run shelter later this year with a soft opening, and then to scale-up over the next five years.
After the info session was officially over, Sandeepa and I decided to stick around and talk to the students spearheading this effort. We talked about what we do here at Suitcase and how our experiences and resources could help them out. For example, they are very interested in creating a service-learning course for their volunteers. Lucky for them we’ve had one (HMS 98/198) for years! We then asked them questions that we had about starting up a shelter since we are still very early in the process. It was clear that not only can they learn a lot from us, but that we can learn a lot from them; collaboration between our organizations can only lead to positive outcomes!
Prior to attending this info session, the task of creating a student-run shelter seemed quite daunting. It still looks to be an uphill battle, but it has been done before. Harvard, in fact, has had a student-run shelter since the 1980s called the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter. In addition to Stanford’s on-going effort (view their website here), Villanova is set to open the doors to their own shelter this year as well (check out their Facebook page). It’s very encouraging and exciting to see that students from other universities are working toward a common goal. Perhaps it will be our generation that will finally put an end to homelessness.