By Lauren Herber, Editor-in-Chief
There are over 600,000 homeless people in the United States. 22% of those people are children, and 46% are disabled and unable to work. In 2015, officials counted over 25,000 homeless people throughout the year in Maricopa County alone. Do these numbers shock you? They should—enough to motivate you to do what you can to help.
Here at Thunderbird, we emphasize creating sustainable development and growth around the world, a mission that is admirable and important. But what about here in our backyard? What about the disabled man that you nervously avoid downtown, the woman whose eyes you avoid every time you get off the I-10 and head down Greenway? Are these people, who are yet human beings despite often being treated like animals, undeserving of food to eat and a roof over their heads?
It’s easy to shrug them off and think, “They must have done something to get there. They must be drug addicts or alcoholics. If they’ve on the street, they must have done something to deserve it.” But it isn’t that simple. I was recently discussing the issue with Anna Shen, a T-bird alum (class of 2014) and friend of mine. She was doing all that she could to help a homeless woman that she had met in Los Angeles. When I asked her why she was going to such great lengths to help this woman, she said something that stuck with me: “You can’t help everyone. But you can help someone. People say that helping just one person doesn’t make that big of a difference, but I disagree. If I can help even one person get back on her feet and safely off the streets…that does make a difference.”
It’s also time that we shed our prejudices about homeless people. It’s far too easy to write them off as drug addicts and alcoholics. While it is possible that some of them have substance abuse issues (for which they should be able to receive help), many of them are simply victims of a broken system marked by low incomes and high housing costs. Studies have shown that there is no place in the United States where a person who works 40 hours a week making minimum wage can afford a one bedroom apartment at fair market rent. The widespread biases that portray homeless people as dirty, dangerous, unworthy people are inaccurate and unwarranted, and as global citizens—and Thunderbirds—we need to hold ourselves to higher standards. This means striving to create sustainable prosperity for everyone.
There are many T-birds who have acknowledged this pressing need and are doing something about it. Fortunately, there are ways for you to get involved, too. One such T-bird is JP Driessen (class of ’99). JP is hosting a fundraiser on October 1st in downtown Phoenix this year called the Come Together Benefit Concert. All proceeds will go to the “I Have a Name” project and the Phoenix Rescue Mission to help feed, clothe, and shelter the homeless. The venue is The Pressroom on Madison, and the concert will feature several local bands, with Empty Spaces as the headliner (“An absolutely incredible Pink Floyd tribute band,” says JP). There will be a table for T-birds at the event. Advance tickets cost $15, and you can purchase tickets at the door for $20. “It’s a great way for T-birds to breakaway from campus and have a great time together, while contributing to a great cause – the Valley’s homeless,” said JP. The concert starts at 7 PM—don’t miss this opportunity to enjoy local live music while benefitting a good cause.
You can also get in touch with T-bird Anna Shen directly if you want to help Elizabeth, the homeless woman from LA that Anna is helping. A little bit about Elizabeth: she’s 65 years old and brilliant. She’s homeless due to a series of unfortunate life events—which could happen to anyone—not substance abuse. Her only companion is her cat, Teddy. And, as you can probably imagine, LA is a terrifying place to be an elderly homeless woman. Elizabeth’s situation is incredibly unsafe. She faces the threat of sexual assault and violence on a daily basis. She is stalked, harassed, jeered at; and the shelters, all of which she has checked, are either full or don’t allow cats. She now has many severe health problems due to sleeping on concrete every night and not having access to a bathroom when necessary. “She is one of the many that we all have walked past, wondering what we could do,” said Anna. “I always wondered how to help. I hope you will join me on this healing journey. We cannot help everyone, but we can help one.
To get in touch with Anna about helping Elizabeth, email her at Anna.firstname.lastname@example.org.
For questions about the Come Together Benefit Concert, you can view details and purchase tickets via the Facebook event here.