Habitat fights for housing
During the past week, students involved in Bowdoin's Habitat for Humanity program have been advocating for families in need of decent shelter. They participated in HabitFest 2004, Habitat for Humanity's third annual day of student advocacy. Across the country, 200 campuses in nearly 40 states will participate in the event.
Though most Bowdoin students do not need to spare a second thought about where to sleep, HabiFest challenges students to think about issues of housing by posing the question "Where will you sleep tonight?"
HabiFest participants organized a number of events this week. They sold t-shirts with the slogan "Where will you sleep tonight?" in hopes of raising funds to support the building efforts of the campus chapter, but also to raise awareness regarding issues of poverty and affordable housing. Habitat members also set out miniature houses that served as banks for a coin war between the classes; the winning class will receive a cash prize.
In terms of advocacy, participants also gathered letters that were sent to elected officials at both the state and national levels. Participants set up tables in Smith Union and asked students to address letters to their state representatives.
Last night, there was a panel discussion led by members of the Preble Street Advocacy Group. The Preble Street Resource Center is a small grassroots community agency in Portland that has "developed a comprehensive model to help homeless and low-income individuals and families improve their lives," according to its website. Panelists discussed homelessness, poverty, oppression, and their direct experiences with these topics.
Members of Bowdoin's Habitat for Humanity see involvement in this week's events as a chance to make a difference. "This is one opportunity for campus chapters to advocate for tangible change in policy related to Habitat's goals at both the local and federal levels," said Jennifer Horwitz, president of the Bowdoin chapter.
Ellie Simon,'06 was the publicity co-chair for the event and agreed with Horwitz, adding that "Homelessness is a major problem that is being ignored and under-funded in the U.S. today. Habitat is a great way to help fight homelessness and the Bowdoin Builds runs on the weekends are great ways for people to easily get involved."
The Bowdoin chapter of Habitat for Humanity was founded in the fall of 2001 and completed its first independently-sponsored house in June of 2003.
Currently, the chapter is anticipating the start of a new project, "Youth United," which will bring youths aged five to 25 together to build a Habitat home beginning April 17 in Brunswick. Proceeds from this week's fundraising will go to the project.
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