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Homelessness and Awareness: A look into YACHT’s H.A.H.A week

Over the week of Nov. 13-17, one of Eastern’s largest campus ministries, Youth Against Complacency and Homelessness Today (YACHT) hosted their annual Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week (H.A.H.A). They began this week by gathering in HHC to show the documentary “Lost Angels – Skid Row Is My Home.” Of this event that started out the week, one of the YACHT leaders (or YACHT mamas, as they are better known) Emily Landis states, “It provided us a better insight into the root causes of homelessness, failures and downfalls of the system, and how laws and policies are currently failing people experiencing homelessness — all while allowing us to get to know a few people who call Skid Row home. We had a great discussion after the documentary about how it opened our eyes to certain sides of homelessness, what we can do here and now, and what needs to be done in the future to combat this injustice.”

On Tuesday, the group hosted an event in Walton where they got together to teach students on campus how to make “plarn” (plastic yarn) by using plastic bags they had collected on campus, with a goal to make a mat for one of their friends in Philadelphia. While teaching the craft of plarn-making, they discussed facts about homelessness, and also had a prayer station for students to go to throughout the evening as well. Landis comments, “It was nice to learn to use something that can something so harmful to the environment, like a plastic bag, to help someone experiencing homelessness.”

Wednesday of H.A.H.A. week was when the separate Grow Groups within each of the Residence Halls gathered to pray for the name of a friend in the city that the student chaplain had been given by YACHT Each chaplain was given a diff erent name, with the intention that the campus would be gathering to pray for many diff erent friends from the city whom YACHT attenders and leaders have met throughout this semester.

Thursday was a full day in the awareness week, being the day of fasting, one of their weekly outings, and the annual Sleep-Out on Walton patio. Members of YACHT, as well as the campus at large, were invited to join together for a time of fasting and prayer, the practice of denying the self something that is itself good, such as food, with the intention of seeking and expressing one’s desire for that which is greater, namely God. While members fasted, they prepared sandwiches for their outing to Philadelphia, and upon return from the city, spent the night outside of Walton, with the ultimate goal being to remember that the hunger and cold they felt by choice, some have no choice but to face daily.

YACHT’s awareness week was closed out by Margie and Nicole from Project H.O.M.E. (Housing, Opportunities for employment, Medical care, Education) speaking at Windows on the World, and later fellowshipping and continuing their discussion at a luncheon in Baird Library. Margie shared how Project H.O.M.E. began in the middle of a homeless epidemic, and has helped over 15,000 people access shelter, while also making available incredible opportunities for those they reach. Nicole shared a bit of her own life story, how she moved out at the age of 13, and lived just above the poverty level as her addictions worsened. She went through a recovery house and transitional housing, before eventually applying for housing with Project H.O.M.E., which ended up quite literally saving her life. The two women shared both inspiring information and testimonies about their experiences working with and experiencing homelessness, and it was a powerful way to conclude a week where Eastern’s focus narrowed to focusing on one very particular issue in our society today: homelessness, while urging students to consider, ‘what will I do to fight back against complacency?’

Eastern’s campus ministries host awareness weeks throughout the entire academic year. It is important that students are aware, even if just for a week, (though hopefully much longer) that injustices are woven tightly into our world, and it is our job to cut the strands free.

Source: Emily Landis, a Leader of YACHT

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