Homelessness 1 Hospitality for the Homeless: Seattle University’s Response to Radical Compassion Panel # 6 (Formation and Learning) Panel Title - Hearing & Learning from People on the Margins Madeline L. Lovell, PhD, Associate Professor Ruth White, Assistant Professor Department of Society, Justice, and Culture and Joe Orlando Director, Jesuit Identity and Mission Seattle University Running Head: Homelessness Hospitality for the Homeless: Seattle University‟s Response to Radical Compassion The authors would like to thank Seattle University students Angela Merrill, Anna Long, and Jodie Campbell for their tremendous enthusiasm, inspiration, and assistance with the hosting of Tent City and the evaluation of the experience from the student perspective. Homelessness 2 At convocation in September 2003, Fr. Stephen Sundborg, President of Seattle University, invited the university community to read Radical Compassion by Gary Smith, SJ, as a way to learn more about the reality of homelessness and to feel closer to the needs of the poor. Nearly 300 faculty and staff requested and read Radical Compassion, a sign of the significant interest generated by the President‟s initiative and of its resonance with our mission to empower leaders for a just and humane world. In response to the reading of this book and to advance the ways in which our campus learned about and engaged the reality of homelessness, the Mission and Ministry Division proposed that the University host Tent City 3 for the month of February 2005. Tent City 3 is one of two formal encampments for the homeless operating in the Seattle area under the direction of a local non-profit organization, SHARE/WHEEL. It “is a group of up to 100 homeless men and women who live together on the property of the host. They live only on land into which they have been invited. In the community there is a large 20-man tent, a large tent for single women and smaller tents. There is also a supply tent and welcome/information tent where Tent City residents can pick up bus tickets, come with concerns or take care of other important matters… An elected council of residents governs Tent City. They enforce a strict code of conduct. Two security workers are on duty at all times and check-in with all visitors. They patrol the grounds and at the host‟s request can also patrol neighboring areas… 60% of residents work. The other 40% are either looking for work or are unable to work due to medical conditions… Tent City asks for nothing more than a piece of land on which to live. The people do not expect, nor ask for food, electricity, water, or any such thing from its hosts.“ (Tent City, 2004) Drugs, alcohol, violence, weapons and panhandling in the vicinity of Tent City are not tolerated. Sexual offenders are not allowed to reside there. Temporary encampments have been legally allowed in Seattle since 2002 and have generally been hosted by churches or social service agencies. Seattle University was the first university to host. Homelessness 3 The offering of hospitality to this community of the homeless was envisioned as a very influential educational moment in the formation of our students. It represented a most powerful modeling by the University of the importance and possibilities of including the disadvantaged in our community. The University thus was demonstrating that the poor and marginalized can be integrated in positive ways to the benefit of all. Our actions as a university community speak very clearly to our students. This paper will outline the challenges, successes, and rewards resulting from the hosting of Tent City as an educational activity that attempted to directly respond to Fr. Kolvenbach‟s (2000) call for the formation of graduates who can “…let the gritty reality of this world into (students‟) lives so they can learn to feel it, think about it critically, respond to its suffering and engage it constructively.” The various educational components of the hosting will be described and data given on campus participation as well as quantitative and qualitative data indicative of the impact on students. Description of the Hosting The proposal to host Tent City evolved from a doctoral class project by one of the authors, Joe Orlando. He spent much time in AY 2003-2004 developing linkages with key campus administrators and constituencies before the project proposal was presented to the University‟s executive team in late summer 2004. The hosting was suggested as a unique opportunity for the University to „walk its talk‟ on social justice and to truly model for students how the marginalized could be enfolded within a community. As a part of this plan, ongoing and frequent consultation was held with Tent City representatives prior to and during the hosting regarding their wishes for the experience on campus. Their suggestions and requests were central to the effort – modeling a Homelessness 4 philosophy of equality and the worth of all persons, and that help is best offered in a true partnership between those serving and served. Recognizing that there were already a multitude of pure service opportunities in the Seattle community in the areas of poverty and homelessness, the University‟s executive leadership determined that the central focus of the Seattle University hosting should be educational – both regarding the causes of homelessness and, even more importantly, how this major social problem could be addressed in significant ways. The homeless residents of Tent City were seen as teachers to the community on the basis of their direct experience with the issue. A variety of educational events on campus were incorporated into the hosting. First, campus forums on homelessness linked to a larger campus educational theme for AY 2004-05, Poverty and Consumption. These forums included not only reflection on the nature of homelessness and its inherent suffering but also on the themes of political and community change towards achieving social justice. Most of these events were open to the surrounding community. Second, Tent City was connected with the ongoing educational life of the university. Members of Tent City agreed to serve as classroom speakers in a variety of classes as well as speaking at public forums. Opportunities for directed service through service learning were planned. Related extracurricular educational activities were coordinated with Student Development. A reader on issues associated with homelessness was prepared as a resource to the community. Third, students undertook significant leadership roles in planning and arranging the hosting. Homelessness 5 Impacts of the Hosting Data to evaluate the impact of the hosting was gathered by a variety of methods. A campus-wide pre-post questionnaire was distributed. Attendance and comments at the pre-hosting community forums were recorded. Attendance at all events was recorded. All students who toured Tent City in classes were asked to complete a brief reflection. Key informant interviews were held and unsolicited emails to the University (generally to the Tent City Coordinator and the President‟s Office) were saved. Student research assistants assisted with data collection and analysis. This paper concentrates on information that speaks directly to the ability of the Tent City hosting to reach and impact SU students. Campus-Wide Forums During the month, the university hosted a total of 8 events for the campus and surrounding communities, drawing a total of 639 attendees. The events were held both during the day and in the evening so that they would be accessible to the largest number of people. The number of attendees is given in brackets. Three evening events: 1. Mobilizing Our Community to End Homelessness: featuring Fr. Stephen Sundborg, SJ (Seattle University president); Ron Sims (King County Executive); Dan Brettler (United Way board member); and two Tent City residents (~200) 2. Faith Community Response to Homelessness: featuring the Very Rev. Robert Taylor (Dean, St. Mark‟s Cathedral); Rabbi Daniel Weiner (Temple De Hirsch Sinai); Josephine Tamayo-Murray (director, Catholic Community Services of King County); and the Rev. Craig Rennebohm, (Mental Health Chaplaincy, Plymouth Healing Communities) (42) 3. Just Housing?: featuring Shane Rock (executive director of the Washington Low-Income Housing Coalition); Josephine Tamayo-Murray (director of Catholic Community Services of King County); and Kris Stadelman (CEO of the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County) (30) Homelessness 6 Five daytime events 1. Advocacy Service Learning: A Workshop for Faculty (59) 2. Conversation with Tent City residents (225 including 110 law students) 3. Street Papers" with Real Change (7) 4. Dynamics of Homelessness (31) 5. Peace on the Streets by Kids on the Streets (45) Tent City and the Educational Life of the Campus Initially we had anticipated that Tent City residents would speak in classes. However, the Tent City member-leaders judged the number of potential requests overwhelming and instead offered to host groups to tour their community and to answer any questions students might then have. Interestingly, a number of faculty felt that such visits would constitute „poverty tourism‟ and were reluctant to agree. Repeated assurances by Tent City that they in fact welcomed such visits and saw them as educational activities fitting within their mission were able to alleviate such concerns. In these activities, Tent City members became the teachers, educating students concerning issues involved in the causes and responses to homelessness. A total of 20 on-campus groups (343 people) toured the camp and met with leaders. These included: 26 staff members in three groups 300 students from 17 classes (with 17 faculty members) In addition, 11 off-campus groups (235 people) visited and many, many unscheduled individuals dropped by throughout the month to see the encampment. A number of faculty were able to actively incorporate the hosting into classroom activities in other ways. For example, a senior undergraduate community organizing class in Social Work assisted in reaching out to the surrounding community to explain our purpose, disseminate information, and answer concerns as a „real world‟ class project. Homelessness 7 They designed an information sheet, developed a community map, and distributed fliers door-to-door inviting neighbors to the community forum designed to explain the University‟s plan to host Tent City. The Social Work Program also offered a class, „The Politics of Homelessness‟, to the campus. Campus Safety and Security made internships available to Criminal Justice undergrads as part of the effort to enhance security during the month Tent City was on campus. Nursing students in their “Healthcare in Communities” clinical participated in a health desk program with the residents of Tent City 3 during their stay at Seattle University. They conducted a community assessment and planned the health desk intervention with the ultimate goal of improving the health status of the population. In an innovative undertaking, members of Tent City and a Core freshman English class all read a short story by Sherman Alexie about a homeless Native American in Seattle and came together to discuss the issues raised. Many faculty were interested in having their students do service learning in the encampment as part of their course. However, this was not feasible given the numbers involved. Instead they were encouraged to tour the site with their class and/or bring the class to educational events. Furthermore, the Center for Service assisted faculty in arranging service learning in off-campus agencies serving the homeless in the wider Seattle community. Finally, a reader on homelessness was prepared for the University community. It presented relevant local, regional and national demographic data, ethical considerations, short stories, and poetry. All 200 copies were distributed upon request. In addition a web site (www.seattleu.edu/tentcity/) was prepared that kept the campus and Seattle Homelessness 8 communities apprised of activities and how to become involved. A listing of resource materials and library materials was included. Service Activities There were multiple opportunities for students to learn from the Tent City hosting through service. A primary need identified by the Tent City leadership was funding. Each month the community must raise approximately $4,500 to pay for services such as hygiene facilities, 2 daily bus tickets per resident, and a cell phone shared by 100 people. The Service Group undertook to raise one month‟s expenses during February by holding fundraisers and receiving individual donations. The fundraisers were conducted primarily by students and included a Raffle, a Residence Hall Casino Night, a Virtual Auction, the Residence Hall Penny War, the Controller‟s auction, a Collegium coin collection, and a Benefit Concert. These activities raised $7,115.20. Individual donations totaled an additional $6,230. A grand total of $13,345.20 or almost three months‟ expenses was raised, well beyond the target. Six half-day legal programs were developed by the Access to Justice Institute and the Ronald A. Peterson Law Clinic. They were conducted by four area attornies, four SU Law faculty members and fifteen students. Law student volunteers participated by: (1) conducting intake interviews with the residents attending legal clinics and those interested in speaking with an attorney to identify the main issues of concern; (2) briefing the attorney on the legal issue in question and introducing the client; and (3) observing the attorney providing legal advice while assisting with logistical matters as needed. Program topics were chosen in consultation with Tent City members who requested information and consultation on unemployment benefits, unclaimed property, family law Homelessness 9 and custody issues, debt issues, social security and disability, sealing juvenile records, reinstating driver‟s licenses, and getting rid of outdated warrants. Approximately forty percent of the camp residents took part in the legal assistance programs. Finally, a total of 638 volunteers assisted with other service activities: helping with the move-in and move-out, preparing evening meals and sack lunches, and participating in special events. Moving activities included packing up tents and loading the moving trucks with buckets of rocks, wood pallets, tents, supplies, and personal belongings, then laying out cardboard boxes and wood pallets on SU tennis courts, and unloading moving trucks. Campus Safety and Housing & Residence Life partnered to acquire a rental bus to transport SU volunteers and Tent City residents between the former site in Tukwila and SU on move-in day. 276 volunteers participated in preparing and serving evening meals on 24 days. 157 volunteers made lunches on 27 days. More than 150 student athletes hosted a weekly special events night at the encampment with card games, board games, movies, basketball, tennis, dancing, etc. And last but not least, the Masters of Nonprofit Leadership student cohort hosted a Super Bowl Part for 120 people (Tent City residents and SU students/staff) in one of the residence halls. Student Leadership Opportunities Two undergraduate seniors in Social Work and representatives from student government were invited to sit on the Tent City Planning Committee. This group of senior staff and faculty met from September 2004 to January 2005 to assist in planning for the hosting. The social work majors spoke at all three community forums prior to the hosting presenting the student perspective on the educational value of this undertaking. These two students and a third classmate volunteered to assist with the analysis of Homelessness 10 outcome data and presented their findings at the Seattle University Undergraduate Research Conference and at a spring conference of the National Student Campaign Against Hunger & Homelessness. As a result of the latter presentation, this national student organization invited the University to host its November 2005 annual conference and our President has agreed. These students have worked closely with the Center for Service to plan for this event. In AY 2004-2005, the Center for Service had several part- time Americorp student employees in the program, “Student Leaders for the Common Good”. These students took on numerous leadership roles in coordinating the logistics of the hosting, tracking class visits, and dealing with donations of supplies to Tent City. Their program director was herself a graduate theology student at the University who played a key role as liaison between the encampment and the University. Personal Reflections 207 students completed questionnaires after touring Tent City. 97.1% (N=201) said that hosting Tent City was a good idea. 57% (N=118) found it to be different than they expected. Thematic data analysis showed that students found the experience to be educational, enlightening and positive. They noted their awareness of the issue and the need for social justice was enhanced. Students also reported being very impressed with the Tent City community (Campbell, Long, & Merrill, 2005). Following is a sample of reflections by students after interacting with Tent City residents. Email to Tent City hosting coordinators from a student-athlete who participated in Monday evening social nights: “I just wanted to thank you for all your efforts with Tent City. I went last night for the first time to help with the activities put on by Student Athlete Activities Homelessness 11 Council. The student athletes were very excited about the opportunity to meet and converse with Tent City residents. “I, myself, was very intrigued with the idea. I met some amazing people last night and it really hit home for me! I came back from the night more aware of my environment and more satisfied than I had been in a long time. I truly feel that this experience has opened my eyes to a new way of thinking and I just wanted to thank you for giving us, the students of Seattle University, the opportunity.” Reflection by a nursing student who assisted with the nursing health desk: "I feel fortunate to be an active member in helping the Tent City 3 residents. However, when they leave, it may be more difficult because I will not see them every week. One resident made a comment in a meeting that I attended that keeps replaying in the back of (my) mind. He said, "We are sometimes placed where people can't see us, making it seem like homelessness is not an issue. If you do not see a problem, it is easy to believe that is doesn't exist." I reflected on this comment for a long time. I suppose I always knew that homelessness was an issue but it was not an issue in my life. However, I now see it every week and I listen to what the Tent City 3 residents have to say every week. It is now a huge part of my life because I have opened my heart to it." Student responses to a survey question on why it was a good idea to host Tent City: “It showed me that homelessness is not an individual thing but a community thing and that there can be a positive outcome if everyone worked together…it really changed my perspective on homelessness.” “Tent City allows students and the homeless to learn about one another and gain insights and perspective on the lives of others.” “I had biases of some sort and many of them were proven wrong. I‟m glad I went.” “The experience you get by speaking to the people and learning about how the homeless live is just unbelievable.” “I‟m glad that there are people to help the homeless and that even as a community we can all help one another and learn about the important issues that our community has.” Tent City 3 residents echoed this positive experience. While media Homelessness 12 attention became tedious after a time, overall it was an exciting and empowering experience as the following comments by residents demonstrate. “Being at SU has been a „humanizing‟ experience for me. So often I am not treated as a human being. I am not treated with respect or dignity. I appreciate being integrated into campus life.” “I love the dinners. Don‟t get me wrong- the dinners are great. But what I have really loved is the hospitality. I love being able to sit down and interact with students during dinner.” Perhaps this is best summarized in an open letter addressed to the student body signed by Tent City residents: “The human spirit is uplifted when on occasion whole groups of society are moved to end, or relieve the plight of an unfortunate few. Congratulations, Seattle University, for you in fact have done so. Your reception of our nomadic survival mechanism demonstrates a courage and commitment unprecedented by any learning institutions in the country. It speaks volumes of the quality of your education and the character of your learning. Be proud, as we have been of you.” (Tent City residents, 2005) Discussion The decision to host Tent City was not taken lightly. In the words of SU President Stephen J. Sundborg, SJ, “When a group of graduate students first proposed it, my stomach dropped” (Monaghan, 2005), acknowledging his initial anxiety about the plan. The experience impacted the entire university community, providing unique rewards and challenges. Many issues and potential conflicts had to be addressed – the concerns of parents, students, and community neighbors, the University‟s fears about parents‟ fears, the extent to which the campus could be opened to Tent City residents without intruding upon the personal boundaries of those who were more hesitant and/or fearful of the homeless, how to organize such a large undertaking to keep the campus community safe, how to deal with what proved to be a flood of people wanting to volunteer time and Homelessness 13 materials, faculty concerns about „poverty tourism‟, and not the least, how to carry out this very time-consuming educational experiment with few additional allocated resources. Not all members of the SU community were initially enthusiastic. A student newspaper reflected this uneasiness in a column by noting, “Many of us fear (for) our own safety during the months we will host the tent community” (Padgett, 2004). It was a challenge to get accurate timely information to the university community in order to dispel rumors, proving that official email messages are frequently not read! Nonetheless, it appears that the Tent City experience was extremely successful in merging service and education to help students to appreciate at a much deeper level the experiences of the poor and marginalized in our society. It modeled a community-wide response and commitment that went far beyond a typical service-learning opportunity. Students witnessed the University taking a concrete stand on an issue of justice. Coincidentally, during this time local media were reporting the heated debate sparked by the vociferous opposition of a very affluent neighborhood to an invitation extended to the second Tent City encampment functioning in Seattle. The contrast between communities was very apparent to all. In the words of one student, “If we say as a university we stand for social justice, providing space for marginalized and suffering people is more than saying it. We are making words into actions.” References Campbell, J., Long, A., & Merrill, A. (2005). Tent City at Seattle University: The student experience. Paper presented at the Seattle University Undergraduate Research Conference, Seattle, April. Kolvenbach, P. (2000). The service of faith and the promotion of justice in American Homelessness 14 Jesuit Higher Education. Address at Santa Clara University, October 6. Monaghan, P. (2005). Shelter in the ivory tower. The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 11. Padgett, L. (2004). Tent City promotes social justice. The Spectator, October 11. Smith, G. (2002). Radical compassion: Finding compassion in the heart of the poor. Chicago: Loyola Press. Tent City (2005). An open letter to the student body of Seattle University. February 11, Private communication available from the authors. Tent City (2004) Frequently asked questions about Tent City. Seattle: SHARE/WHEEL.