UC Berkeley groups participate in hunger, homelessness awareness week

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Several groups on campus are holding events to bring light to hunger and homelessness problems that many students and community members face in observance of this year’s National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week from Nov. 16 to Nov. 24.

Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week began at Villanova University in 1975 to educate the public and bring awareness to issues of homelessness and food insecurity, according to the Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week official website. In the decades since, the event has spread to more than 700 high schools, colleges and community groups.

On campus, groups such as CALPIRG Students and the Basic Needs Center have an entire week of programs and events planned in observance of the national awareness event. These events follow UC Berkeley’s own Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week held last week.

According to a CALPIRG Students update, the organization will be bringing awareness to on-campus basic needs resources and promoting the Zero Hunger commitment, a campaign dedicated to managing campus food waste reduction.

The Basic Needs Center began participating in this week in 2017, leading to a win in Best Overall Awareness Week the same year, according to the Basic Needs Center community partnerships and outreach coordinator, Sara Tsai.

Awareness events scheduled for this week include a CalFresh clinic Monday and an upcoming cooking class Wednesday, but the highlight of the week is the basic needs case competition, according to Sana Khader, an organizer for the campus’s Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week events. The purpose of the case competition is to offer community solutions and get students to think critically about homelessness and hunger, Khader said in an email. The solutions are due Thursday with the finalist presentations and the award ceremony Friday.

The city of Berkeley also has policies seeking to alleviate the homelessness situation in the city such as the Coordinated Entry System, or CES. With CES, the city aims to create a standardized eligibility and assessment process for homelessness to grant priority of city services to people who have been homeless the longest, as opposed to being on a first-come-first-serve basis. In addition, the city plans to require providers to accept referrals from a centralized housing priority list.

Some people, however, feel that the Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week does not go far enough.

“My take on the week is this, without the direct voice of the homeless it’s nothing but a feel good exercise,” said homeless activist Mike Lee in an email. “Why is it only a week when homelessness occurs everyday. This sort of spectacle is harmful in that no one has yet to question the strategy of combating extreme poverty.”

Others, like homeless activist Mike Zint, support the week as a chance to remind people of the struggles that homeless people endure during the holidays.

“Every time these subjects are talked about, a few more people decide to actually work towards solution,” Zint said in an email.

Contact Blake Evans at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @Blake_J_Evans.