State Sen. John Kefalas hosts discussion on homelessness

Haley Candelario

Colorado State Sen. John Kefalas hosted a community discussion about homelessness at the Lory Student Center on Monday night.

The event was dialogue-based and part of SLiCE’s homelessness awareness month. The purpose of the event was to allow members of the community and students to discuss homelessness.

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Kefalas talked about his personal experience with a homeless man sleeping on the steps at the state Capitol building one February. Kefalas said he was unsure how to help the man who was asleep beneath a blanket with a torn, overflowing plastic bag at his side.

“I was unsure what to do and went back to my office to conduct my work before returning to the Capitol for a committee meeting,” Kefalas said. “Heading back, I saw the man was still under the blanket … Meanwhile, a Colorado state patrolman came along and tapped the man on the foot, who awoke startled and bewildered, only to be informed he had to move on.”

Kefalas said the scenario reminded him of the issue of homelessness and how the experience made him feel.

“I felt anguished and I often feel anguish when I’m not really sure what to do,” Kefalas said. “We have work to do, because it is wrong, morally and economically, when people are sleeping on sidewalks, working families are paying more than half their paycheck for their rent or mortgage, and persons on fixed incomes are being pushed out of mobile home communities.”

Kefalas’ dialogue-based discussion included opinions from CSU students and members of the community, who were encouraged by the senator to challenge regulations and laws for those impacted by homelessness.

Gina Johnson Spoden, one of the founders of homelessness awareness month, said the issue is important for CSU students to learn about because very few people realize it is an issue.

“Educating the people is so very important,” Johnson Spoden said. “So many people don’t know anything, and a lot of them don’t even care to know, so holding an event where you have a very intimate conversation with a state senator is extremely important because it’s all about educating the public.”

Johnson Spoden also encouraged students to reflect on what issues they care about the most and educate themselves on those issues before choosing to act.

“It’s really hard to go out and try to convince someone else to do something when you don’t even know really where you stand, or you don’t know much about it in the first place,” Johnson Spoden said.

Johnson Spoden said the most important part the event was people having conversations with one another about the issue of homelessness because it allowed audience members to listen to each other’s opinions.

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“In this room, we were having conversation, and you see conversations going around all around campus, but people aren’t listening to each other,” Johnson Spoden said. “All they’re doing is talking because they’re so passionate … But, I think where people are really lacking right now is listening to one another. That’s where progress is going to be made is listening, not just talking.”

Kefalas also encouraged the audience to attend two events occurring Dec. 3. On the morning of Dec. 3, the Catholic Charities Mission will hold their Mission to Hope Community Walk to raise awareness about homelessness and act as a fundraiser for the Murphy Center. On the same evening, teenagers from the Plymouth Congregational Church will sleep outside for the night to raise money and awareness for the Homelessness Prevention Initiative.

Collegian reporter Haley Candelario can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @H_Candelario98.