Hunger and Homelessness Week

What you can do and what students are already doing

Every year, the week before Thanksgiving is national hunger and homelessness awareness week.

This year, it begins on Nov. 12.

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless’ website, “This is a time for us all to think about what we are thankful for, a perfect time to share our compassion with our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness and work toward a world where no one has to experience hunger or homelessness.”

The mission of The National Coalition for the Homeless is, according to its website, “to prevent and end homelessness while ensuring the immediate needs of those experiencing homelessness are met and their civil rights protected, reflecting the purpose of the awareness week itself.”

This year, Hunger and Homelessness Week is primarily focusing on local laws passed throughout the country that, in effect, criminalize homelessness and prevent those experiencing homelessness from life-sustaining things.

Homelessness can happen to anyone. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness 2015 report, there were 15,421 homeless people in Pennsylvania alone.

Lynn Bell, who is currently homeless and sleeps under the Wilkes-Barre Pierce Street Bridge, was making 40,000 a year as a union technician only nine years ago. Everything changed when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and, even after she went into remission, she was too shaky to return to work, resulting in her living on the streets.

Stu Glazer is a veteran who was homeless for a few months over the summer, before he received housing. Not everyone is lucky enough to get the housing they need in the colder months, however.

For those seeking to help those less fortunate, especially during the holidays, there are opportunities at Wilkes to help pacify the epidemic of homelessness.

Some ideas for events can be “One Night Without a Home,” where students may raise awareness by inviting others to sleep out in front of a city hall or on campus. In addition, students can participate in a Dining Hall Fast to raise hunger awareness.

In addition to those things, a few Wilkes students are participating in Food 4 Kids food drive for Thanksgiving, a program being held by the Commission on Economic Opportunity (CEO) and located at 140 Westside Mall in Edwardsville.

“The mission of CEO is to promote self-sufficiency among low-income and vulnerable populations by confronting the causes and reducing the effects of poverty,” reads its website.

CEO has been recognized by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for its “outstanding contribution and leadership in Luzerne County’s Continuum of Care Planning for homeless individuals and families,” according to the website.

Megan Pitts is the program manager for the Food 4 Kids Meal Program, and is working closely with their Thanksgiving Project as well as coordinating volunteers. She invites Wilkes students to participate.

“It is so important for us to have community involvement with our Thanksgiving project. We will be feeding over 10,000 families this holiday season and we would not be able to do it without the support of Wilkes students,” Pitts said. “It is truly amazing to see students take the time out of their day to come and support such a great cause.  We really appreciate it!”

Student body vice president and junior student of pharmacy, Cody Morcom, was informed of the tradition of the Pharmacy School’s volunteer work with CEO and decided, along with Big Event coordinator Katelyn Jimison, to spearhead the student participation.

“We felt that by taking on this effort and carrying on the tradition, we could give back to the community in a fantastic way,” Morcom said, adding that it was especially rewarding to do so around Thanksgiving, “when those who are not well off truly need food.”

Cody shared that more than 68 pharmacy students and faculty will be volunteering for the program on Nov. 19.

Another Wilkes student, Evan Sedor, has been volunteering for the CEO food bank since grade school.

“…(I)t wasn’t until I was a bit older and assisted in the delivery of food boxes to a nearby low-income senior citizen apartment complex that I realized just how many people were in need of the kinds of programs that the CEO Food Bank provides,” Sedor said. “Many people don’t realize that there are people in their neighborhood that are in need — some temporarily and some for longer.

“I think it’s important to help our neighbors, and volunteering for CEO’s Food Bank, their Food 4 Kids program, and their various other programs are great ways that you can really make a difference in our community.”

For more information about the food drive and how to get involved, contact Megan Pitts at:

[email protected].