Homelessness Awareness Month brings Poor People’s Campaign to CSU

Joe Manely

As a part of Homelessness Awareness Month at CSU, SLiCE hosted a presentation from the Poor People’s Campaign to inform students about getting involved with fighting homelessness in Fort Collins.

The presentation was held on Tuesday night in the Lory Student Center.  

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The event featured guest speakers from around the country: Willie Baptist, a Poverty Initiative scholar and the Coordinator of Poverty Scholarship and Leadership Development for the Kairos Center, Paul Boden, the Executive Director of Western of the Regional Advocacy Project and Lynn Thompson, a Fort Collins Homeless Coalition Activist.

One of the focuses of the discussion was the criminalization of the homeless. The speakers argued the government strongly discriminated against the homeless over the last few decades, making the homelessness issue “disappear” by dehumanizing homeless people and punishing them with laws and regulations.

“People who are homeless in our community, like in communities all across America, are being targeted and excluded and criminalized just for existing,” Thompson said. “(There are) policies that we’ve seen against other groups of people in history and homeless people are just the latest to encounter this.”

The Poor People’s Campaign is currently advocating for a “Right to Rest Act” in California and Colorado. The bill would grant homeless people the protection to inhabit or rest in public spaces, among other rights. Thompson and the Fort Collins Homeless Coalition cite the passing of this bill in Colorado as one of their main goals.

In the city of Fort Collins, the Homeless Coalition is working to improve life for the homeless by pressing the city council about laws that unfairly target them. Their two main projects are ending the Fort Collins camping ban and creating public bathrooms and sources for drinking water that are available 24/7.

Currently, Fort Collins does not have a single 24/7 public bathroom. The city has one public bathroom that is only available at daytime and one public drinking fountain that was provided by the FoCo Cafe in August.

“(24/7 bathrooms and drinking fountains) are things we don’t have in our community right now,” Thompson said. “Even though there are some signs that we’re gonna get some of those things, we have needs that go beyond one bathroom and one drinking fountain.”

The speakers encouraged students to support the Poor People’s Campaign by joining their email list. Thompson asked students to join the Homeless Coalition and to take volunteer opportunities.

“Students should start to learn that homelessness is an issue that they can be getting involved with on a human rights level,” Thompson said.

Nevan Mandel, a student organizer at SLiCE who helped with the event, pointed out that there are several opportunities for students to show support for homeless people.

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“There are many ways to get involved,” Mandel said. “The best way is to come to the SLiCE office right here in the Lory Student Center and we have tons of volunteer opportunities and people like myself can put students in contact with all sorts of different organizations and causes.”

Collegian reporter Joe Manely can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @joemanely.