Press Release for Monday, March 8, 2010

UNF Hosts Jacksonville Faces of Homelessness Speakers Bureau Forum

Joanna Norris, Assistant Director

Department of Media Relations and Events

(904) 620-2102


 

The American Democracy Project at the University of North Florida and the Emergency Services and Homeless Coalition (ESHC) are sponsoring the Jacksonville Faces of Homelessness Speakers Bureau Forum at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 22, at the University Center ( Board of Trustees Room 1058) on campus.

 

This event is free and open to the public. All donations collected will be provided to the speakers, who are formerly or presently struggling with poverty and homelessness. For more information about this event, contact Erin Dupree at (904) 859-2431.

 

The forum includes an overview about homelessness on a local, state and national level presented by Tamara Patton, Americorps VISTA for the ESHC, and is then followed by local speakers who will share their moving experiences about homelessness.

 

Across the state of Florida, 85,907 people are homeless on any given day and 40 percent of all homeless people are families. In Jacksonville, 46 percent of the homeless population is homeless for the first time and one-third of them were born and raised right here on the First Coast.

 

Several UNF students have organized the event as a result of attending The Resolve to Fight Hunger and Homeless conference in Chicago last fall. UNF student Cody Spencer, a senior majoring in sociology with a concentration in social welfare, has always been interested in why people become homeless but, it wasn’t until he started volunteering that he became motivated to do something about it.

“The reason I’m so passionate about the homeless is because they’re people just like you and me. No one chooses to be discarded, forgotten and overlooked,” he said.

Spencer has personally talked to homeless individuals from all walks of life as part of the annual Homeless Census Survey, led by UNF sociology professor Dr. Jeff Will, as well as spent time last summer working on the project, Food for Thought: A Community Outreach Initiative, to raise money for the Sulzbacher Center. The proceeds were used to serve a meal at the center.

 

UNF senior, Erin Dupree, a psychology major, also attended the hunger and homeless conference last fall and believes as members of the wealthiest society in the world, it’s essential to our humanity that we don’t ignore the poorest and least fortunate among us. “In order to attack the causes of homelessness—a need for affordable housing and jobs with livable wages—we have to have conversations within our communities about the individuals and families who are falling through the cracks.

 

 

Patton hopes that the event will dispel misconceptions and stereotypes about the homeless community and will hopefully reconnect them with Northeast Florida residents on a more personal level.

 

“So often there is a disconnection in a community between people who are experiencing homelessness and those who are not. This is due to the perceptions about homelessness from the media, our families, etc.,” said Patton. “Through these individual’s personal stories, the issues surrounding homelessness are brought closer to home and remind the audience that not only are these people neighbors and members of the community, but that it can happen to anyone.”

The Emergency Services and Homeless Coalition of Jacksonville coordinates efforts to prevent and reduce homelessness. As a lead agency for Duval, Clay and Nassau counties, ESHC assists member organizations in applying for and receiving federal and state grant money, develops the local homeless continuum of care plan and coordinates the delivery of services for the homeless and those with extremely low incomes. With two employees, ESHC supports an Americorps VISTA who coordinates the Jacksonville Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau.

Beginning in September of 2009, the Jacksonville Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau has reached more than 350 children and adults and currently has 21 speakers. For more information, contact Tamara Patton at (904) 384-0164 or by e-mail at tpatton@eshcnet.org.

 

The American Democracy Project targets undergraduate students enrolled at institutions that are members of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. The project grows out of concern about decreasing rates of participation in civic life among Americans in the areas of voting, advocacy, local grassroots associations, and other forms of civic engagement that are necessary for the vitality of our democracy.

 

- UNF-