[Hpn] PROVIDENCE, RI - Students camp out at State House for the homeless - Providence Journal - November 28, 2003

HC Covington HC Covington" <hcc@icanamerica.org
Sun, 30 Nov 2003 22:39:43 -0500


Students camp out at State House for the homeless

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BY MEGAN MATTEUCCI - Providence Journal - November 28, 2003

PROVIDENCE, RI - Day-old bagels replaced turkey and a sleeping
bag took the place of a bed for Molly Little's
Thanksgiving.

Little, a senior at South Kingstown High School, and a dozen
others camped out on the State House lawn last night to
raise public awareness of homelessness and the unequal
distribution of wealth.

"We're trying to bridge the connection between the homeless
and the military," said Little, as she painted anti-war
signs. "Homelessness, poverty, hunger _ we're trying to
address the problem by pointing out the U.S. budget is out
of control."

Last year, Little saw people sleeping in front of the State
House to protest the war in Iraq, while teenagers in South
Kingstown were sleeping in front of their church to call for
more affordable housing.

Little saw a correlation between the two: 10 percent of the
annual military budget could provide the essentials of life
for everyone in the world, according to the United
Nations.

The sleepover started out with Little and a few friends, but
then word got around South Kingstown High School. Other
students (and some parents) wanted to help. The American
Friends Service Committee, a Quaker humanitarian
organization, signed on.

Yesterday afternoon, Little and Kerrie Johnson, a graduate
of South Kingstown High School, hung signs on tents, while
Camia Crawford listened to a Providence couple talk about
their life on the streets.

The couple, who declined to give their names, were on their
way to St. Patrick Church to help serve dinner. The couple
now have jobs and an apartment, but spent a year in and out
of shelters. They had lost their jobs and had no where to go.

"But now they volunteer with other charities and want to
make sure people are cared for," said Crawford, a senior at
South Kingstown High. "It's just a powerful message because
many people think the homeless are lazy and not looking for
jobs. For many people, that's not the case."

Community College of Rhode Island students Rachel Rodi and
Morgan French were driving around the city looking for a
place to volunteer to help feed the homeless, when they
spotted the group assembling on the State House lawn.

After a few introductions and stumbling upon a few Rhode
Island connections, the girls were busy spray-painting signs
and ready to spend the night.

Little offered the newcomers some of the homemade rice and
beans her mom had just dropped off to supplement the bagels,
but French refused.

French, a CCRI sophomore from Richmond, was fasting for the
day.

"This is a holiday where you just sit around and eat," she
said. "Not eating brings me closer to how many people don't
eat on a regular bases. If I don't eat for two days, it is
nothing compared to people who don't eat for weeks."

Although only a few students joined Little for most of
yesterday afternoon, the crowd on the lawn began to grow as
the sun went down and turkey dinners were digested.

"We're raising awareness of homelessness by making a
connection to where their tax dollars are going. ... And
this is where the decisions are made," Little said, as she
pointed to the State House.

At the age of 17, Little is already discouraged by the
world. She's shocked at the lack of affordable housing. She
can't believe the disparity between money spent on bombs and
food. She's tired of seeing people buy luxury cars when
others can't afford health care.

"We're in solidarity with the homeless," Little said. "We're
not trying to simulate homelessness and it's not about
charity, but to demonstrate the need for change."

In addition to sleeping outdoors for the homeless, the
students plan to help today with the seventh annual Rhode
Island "Buy Nothing Day," which includes a coat drive on the
State House lawn. But somehow the word got out that the coat
drive was yesterday.

One woman walked by looking for gloves. French ran to her
car and handed the woman her knit gloves.

Joe Pacheco, who often sleeps on the State House lawn when
he can't find anywhere warmer, came looking for a coat to
replace his ripped jacket. He left with a flannel-lined
coat.

The girls had brought a bag of coats donated from South
Kingstown students.

"This is very helpful," said Pacheco, as left to find his
bed for the night. "There are real nice people here. It
gives me hope."

PROVIDENCE JOURNAL source page: http://tinyurl.com/x5np
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ŠTHE HOMELESS NEWS - H.C. Covington, Editor  http://tinyurl.com/2yg2