By Molly Ashline, Staff Writer
As part of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, a panel was held last Wednesday in the Joyner Room of Elliot University Center. Kali Hackett, from the Interactive Resource Center in the Office of Leadership and Service-Learning, organized the panel, which was entitled Faces of Homelessness.
The panelists, who included both people who worked with ending homelessness and people who are currently homeless, were Adrienne Wall, Christine Byrd, Shannon Stewart, Jan Moore, Andrew Mails and Darryl Kosciak.
Hackett introduced the panelists and asked them a series of questions before opening the floor to questions from the audience.
In keeping up with raising awareness about homelessness, Hackett asked the panelists to debunk some of the common misconceptions surrounding homelessness.
In response to this question, Byrd, who is the Director of Development and Communication at the Greensboro Urban Ministry, said, there is some misunderstanding about homelessness.
“A lot of our clients are employed; they’re just underemployed,” she said.
Kosciak, the Executive Director of Partners Ending Homelessness, added to Byrd’s point by asking the audience how many hours a week a person would have to work a week on minimum wage to afford a two bedroom apartment in Guilford County. The answer was 79 hours.
Kosciak later added, “Affordable housing is an issue.
The panelists also spoke about the stigma of homelessness.
Executive Director of the Weseley Foundation, Andrew Mails, said, “It doesn’t take that much to destabilize most of our lives, and we really have a system right now that’s set up to punish people who fail…I think we really need to address that in our own attitudes and especially in our voting.”
Mails supported his words later from a monetary perspective, saying, “It’s cheaper for the government to house people and provide them with medical care than it is to leave them out in the street.”
Byrd provided some numbers for the audience: “Our shelter costs are ridiculous. For a family, they’re going to stay in shelter with us for three months, it’s going to cost us $7,600 for those three months. If we put them straight in housing and give them supportive services, it’s going to cost us $3,600.”
Hackett also queried the panel about courses of action that have proven effective for decreasing homelessness.
Kosciak answered, saying, “There are cities and communities across the country that are showing major decreases…it goes to this system shift and this sort of paradigm shift of creating a system where people have to prove themselves worthy of housing and earn housing and all those types of things and start there [with housing]….it’s called housing first…the solution to homelessness is housing.”
Hackett, along with a number of audience members, asked about what UNCG students can do to help with the issue of homelessness.
To this, many panelists named organizations around Greensboro such as Second Harvest, Greensboro Urban Ministry, the Interactive Resource Center (IRC) and others.
Shannon Stewart, who is a current guest at the IRC, recommended to the audience that they go talk to people struggling with hunger and homelessness rather than simply relying on secondhand sources for information.