Students organize for the homeless

MPIRG is working to raise food, money and awareness about homelessness.

To coincide with Affordable Housing & Homelessness Awareness Week, students from the University chapter of the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group are running food drives and organizing events to collect supplies for the homeless.

Throughout the week, MPIRG will be collecting canned goods to donate to Second Harvest Heartland, which boasts being the largest hunger relief organization in the Upper Midwest, according to its Web site.

Drop boxes for food will be available in Pioneer Hall and Grand Marc Apartments until next weekend. MPIRG will also be taking donations at Cub Foods on 26th Avenue South from 4 to 7 p.m., Monday through Thursday.

Elementary education sophomore Jessica Beisang helped pick the locations of the drop boxes. This is the first food drive she’s been a part of and she said she hopes to collect as much food and money for Second Harvest as possible.

Beisang said she cares about the homeless because of the kids.

“I think it’s important that children have a place to sleep at night,” she said.

Other activities taking place this week include “Knitting for a Change.” Volunteers will meet in Coffman Union on Tuesday night to knit scarves and blankets for the homeless.

Last year about 15 to 25 people volunteered, said psychology junior Ashley Schultz, head of the Affordable Housing Taskforce for the University’s MPIRG chapter.

For those who want to volunteer but don’t know how to knit, there will be people teaching how to knit scarves, Schultz said.

While knitting, volunteers will be able to watch “Dark Days,” a documentary about people living in subway tunnels in New York.

Schultz joined MPIRG last year and has since worked at homeless shelters and crisis hotlines. She said helping the homeless is a good cause.

“They’re a part of our community,” she said.

On Thursday, volunteers will be on the ground floor of Coffman for an information session called “Does Your Landlord Suck?” Students will be invited to ask questions regarding renters’ rights. Renters guides will be available, detailing the laws landlords must follow.

On Friday night, Steak Knife will be hosting a concert featuring local artists and street performers. Half of the $3 entry fee will be donated to Homeless Against Homelessness, an organization dedicated to solving homelessness issues. HAH is run by people who are or were homeless at some point in their lives. The other half of the fee will be divided among the performers.

Raising money isn’t the only purpose of the event.

“A big part of the concert is getting kids involved with the people they’re helping,” Schultz said.

HAH members will be helping with the concert, and students will be able to meet homeless people and see they are not all crazy, drug-addicted drunks, Schultz said.

Throughout the week, MPIRG will be handing out postcards promoting the Housing Solutions Act, which students can sign and mail to their district representative to show their support for the bill.

Currently, anyone selling property must pay a .33 percent deed tax. The bill would raise the existing tax by .17 percent, which would raise the tax to .5 percent. According to MPIRG, the change would raise about $64 million per year to help low-income families pay rent. Affordable housing developers would also have access to the money.

Biomedical engineering first-year Emma Gantzer lives in Pioneer Hall where a drop box will be located. Next time she goes grocery shopping, Gantzer said she plans on buying some canned goods to donate.

“It’s our responsibility to look out for everyone,” she said.