The Homeless and the Hungry

November 19, 2013

Jana Foxe '16 is a Community Fellow with Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE), which provides a structured opportunity for students to work with homeless populations and to engage in related advocacy efforts.

I had one main experience in my adolescence that led me to work with the homeless.

When I was 15, I accompanied a family friend on a Friday night car trip around my hometown of Dublin, Ireland. At the same time every week, she drove around to about 10 major supermarkets in the city at their closing time, collecting all of the day-old bread she could find (with the manager’s permission, of course), and squeezed all baked goods she could into massive garbage bags. We fit all the bags she could into the trunk of her car and, when there was no more room, we sprawled them over our laps and in between seats. We shuttled all this food to shelters across town, and the staff were so grateful, because it was so badly needed. She told me the importance of thinking of those who are desperate, hungry, and have no place to go, and while it would be difficult to disagree with that, it truly struck a nerve with me that in my city, in my country, at this present moment there are people who are starving on our streets. In a society as wealthy as my own, my fellow citizens must live off the generosity of others, or not live at all.

I never acted on this experience, but it always resonated with me. I became more cognizant of the homeless and the hungry, but I felt powerless to help. When I came to Brown last year, and heard of HOPE, I signed up - and it may be the best decision I’ve ever made.

As a group, HOPE utilises a mix of direct community service, advocacy and awareness-building to work towards ending homelessness in Rhode Island. What I love about HOPE is that it operates a huge variety of activities that work to serve the homeless. We work closely with the RI Homeless Advocacy Project, and participate in their Nighttime Outreach program, which directs rough sleepers to shelters. We liaise with the RI Coalition for the Homeless and participate in their outside sleepers counts, door knocking activities and rallies. HOPE volunteers also serve hot meals at the City Meal Site, and write articles for Street Sights newspaper. We also organise an annual fundraiser variety show called Beats for Blankets.

The multifaceted and dynamic nature of HOPE lends itself to progressive change very easily, and draws many different members with different visions and interests, which is something truly wonderful and unique about the program. The diversity of our membership, and our ideas, leads us to constantly seek ways to restructure, innovate, and expand our program to tie it closer to its mission to end homelessness in Rhode Island.

We hope to announce new programs for Spring 2014 soon. Until then, I must make good of this opportunity to say how grateful I am for the insight and knowledge my time with HOPE has given me, and that I am honoured to be a Community Fellow, because I know that the experiences I have gained here will be taken home and applied to create change.