Dr. Kathy Miller’s class, along with two students from last year and Susan Mehl, helped with Project Homeless on Oct. 20. Photo courtesy of Payton Devencenty.
by Hayley Wallace
Concordia’s cultural anthropology class, led by Dr. Kathy Miller, participated in Project Homeless Connect for the third consecutive year on Oct. 20. The annual event, which has been held at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln for the past eight years, serves as a one-stop shop of health and human services provided in the Lincoln area for those who identify as homeless or are near homelessness.
The students are briefly trained as navigators when they arrive in the morning and cover their main duties for the day. Each volunteer accompanies either a single person or group of peers and guides them through the various services available in the arena.
Volunteer navigators are expected to begin each session by eating with their peer then taking them around the arena to visit the various stations set out for them. Services provided include medical, educational, employment, housing, haircuts and veteran benefits. For persons with children or pets, there is also an area available for child and pet care, because they are not allowed into the arena. The purpose for navigators is to make sure their person or people are aware of the many services available and that they take advantage of as many as possible.
Moved by the stories they heard from their peers, many students would like to stay the entire day to help in the future.
“I haven’t met a student yet who isn’t really changed,” Miller said. “The stories are amazing. As you’re just even listening, it really opens your eyes to the kinds of things they’re dealing with.” She has even had a few students request to continue attending in the future alongside her class.
“I think it’s easy for us to form false conceptions of what it means to be homeless, building up stereotypes that only restrain us from interacting with people in the future,” junior Zach Barz said.
According to Barz, Project Homeless is a great opportunity to participate in local ministry.
“Often we focus our ministry farther outwards, overseas or in big cities around the country,” Barz said. “It’s easy for us to forget that we have a need right here close to home.”
He recommends this opportunity to other students, highlighting how one can really learn about homelessness as well as share God’s love through being a volunteer.
While not all students were able to attend, Miller’s class suggested this year to include another way to support this ministry through the donation of winter clothing.
After completing five stations, persons were allowed to browse through donated clothes, which could be taken as needed.
Donation boxes for the clothing were placed in every building on campus, as well as in St. John Lutheran School and Church and Faith Lutheran Church.