In 2009, 44 million Americans – that’s one in seven residents – were living below the poverty line. Thursday, Oct. 21, will mark the first day of a weekend-long event on campus – “Being Without: A Conference on Poverty and Homelessness.”
“Being Without” seeks to create a forum in which to discuss issues of poverty and homelessness across the United States, and specifically within the Geneva community. “We wanted to make this a conference, something that would last more than a few hours, because we don’t want this to end up being just one day where we think about poverty – and then forget about it the next,” explains Director of Intercultural Affairs Alejandra Molina.
George Schaeffer, coordinator of the Weekend Backpack Program at Milly’s Pantry in Penn Yan, N.Y., is scheduled to speak on Thursday at 5 p.m. at the Intercultural Affairs Center. Schaeffer will talk about his work with the pantry to provide children in Yates County with meals and “fighting poverty one backpack at a time.”
On Saturday, Oct. 23, students are encouraged to help out in the Geneva community by lending a hand during this year’s second Day of Service. “We are living in times of intense privation in our country,” says Assistant Director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning Jeremy Wattles, who is advising the Day of Service student group. “A small piece of good news is that volunteerism rates are up across the nation—events like Day of Service, whether they are a first-time experience for students or part of a long-held personal tradition, are an important expression of civic engagement.”
Michael Austerlitz ’10, a former Senior Bonner intern who is currently serving as a volunteer for AmeriCorps VISTAS, will lead a discussion following the screening of “The End of Poverty? Think Again” on Sunday, Oct. 24. The 2008 documentary, directed by academy award winning director Phillippe Diaz, illuminates problems in today’s current economic system that will not allow for the end of poverty, and in fact, drive more people below the poverty line than ever before. The film and accompanying dinner and discussion will take place at 6 p.m. in the Community Service House located at 737 S. Main St.
A luncheon on Tuesday, Oct. 26 will ask the question: What’s wrong with charity? Join other members of the campus community at noon to discuss the issue of charity in Saga Dining Hall’s Blue Room. Later in the evening, all are invited to engage in a dialogue about poverty and homelessness with their Geneva neighbors, at the Community Dinner and Forum at 5 p.m. in the Fisher Center.
Frank Morales ’71 will provide both the keynote speech of the conference and the conclusion. Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. in the Seneca Room, Morales will provide an activist’s prospective on poverty and homelessness. Morales, an ordained Episcopal minister and housing coordinator for Picture the Homeless, led a squatter movement on the Lower East Side of New York in the 80s, and has seen the devastation of life without a place to call home.
“It is particularly relevant in today’s economy,” says Molina. “People who are used to being comfortable, are finding themselves struggling, and utilizing community lunch programs. Poverty is not affecting just those people you see on the streets. Poverty is having to live with your family. It is trying constantly to stay afloat. This is something we should always be considering.”