Making a Connection: Students Volunteer to Help the Homeless
Manning a homeless shelter may not be the most glamorous way to spend a night, but that has not stopped up to 25 Georgia State students from doing just that on a regular basis.
“It honestly makes me feel so great just to be with these people,” said Vanessa Segura, a marketing major that regularly volunteers at two home- less shelters nearby campus. “I love hanging out with them.”
Besides the relatively straightforward tasks of feeding the homeless and watching over them while they sleep, volunteers are also encouraged to interact and talk with the men and women they help.
“People think that charity is just money and giving material things, but that’s not what it is,” she said. “These people just want attention. They want friends. They want to be considered human beings.”
Led by Rudi Schlosser, a post-grad student, the Catholic Student Association helps coordinate volunteer opportunities for Georgia State students at the Central Night Shelter and a shelter within the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, aCatholic church located just a few blocks away from the edge of campus near the Capitol Building.
All together, these shelters house and feed about 100 men every night from the start of November until the end of March.
He said the group welcomes all students, regardless of religious inclination, to come out and help.
“It has nothing to do with religion, other than it’s a student organization – the Catholic Student Association – leading Georgia State students to help at this shelter,” he said.
Prompted by a stated need to expand awareness about what students can do to help the home- less, Schlosser said the CSA has distributed flyers around campus asking for their time, clothes, blankets and extra food.
Students have responded fairly well, according to Schlosser.
“From the flyers, we’ve collected about maybe 100 blankets from Georgia State students that are used for the indoor shelter.” And blankets are very important, especially as the temperature begins to drop with the change of the season, Schlosser said.
“Last year at least one person froze to death that was just too cold, and that blanket could have saved that person’s life,” he said.
The group is also preparing a variety of holiday celebrations for the homeless men’s shelters, as well as for the Gateway Center – a shelter for women and children.
For Thanksgiving they helped prepare a large meal for the patrons, and they have begun deco- rating and preparing gifts for the winter holidays.
“We made lunch for them and decorated the fourth floor of the building with a Christmas-type theme. We decorated the ornaments and decorated the gifts,” Schlosser said. “And when they saw so many students and other people volunteer, they were just overwhelmed.”
But Schlosser made it clear that physical contributions are not the most important thing to homeless people, in his view.
“The most important thing is just spending time with them,” Schlosser said. “I’m not just going to throw food at you. I’m not just going to give you money. I’m going to spend time with you and just hear your story and see if I can help out in any way and listen to what you have to say.”