The week of Nov. 13–21 is Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Annually, across the country, people come together to draw attention to the problems of hunger and houselessness, utilizing a series of educational, service, fundraising and advocacy events.
At Portland State, the Student Community Engagement Center was one of the groups that took part in observing the Awareness Week. Throughout the week, the Center provided a variety of events to educate not only the students at PSU but the community at large as well—ranging from a virtual, guided tour on the basic-need resources offered at PSU to service projects like grocery shopping for homebound seniors.
One virtual event discussed PSU’s newest housing resource, The Landing. The partnership between the university and the First United Methodist Church had been in the works since 2020, and later opened to house PSU students.
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, Oregon had the fifth highest percentage of houselessness in the United States, with a rate of 34.7 unhoused individuals per 10,000 people and an estimated 14,655 unhoused people in Oregon—in addition, of these individuals, more than half are not using a shelter.
In Oregon Community Foundation’s 2019 Ending Homelessness in Oregon report, Oregon had a disproportionately large population of unhoused individuals, when compared to other states. “While Oregon’s population represents 1.3% of the total U.S. population, Oregon’s homeless population represents 2.6% of the total U.S. homeless population,” the report stated.
However, there are actions students at PSU and individuals in the community can take. One commonly-taken action is to donate to different drives, such as the Student Community Engagement Center’s Warm Clothing & Supplies Drive for the Good Neighbor Project. The Center stated that it is specifically looking for warm hats, socks, gloves, packages of wet wipes and healthy, non-perishable snacks. Donations will be accepted in the Smith Memorial Student Union, room M103, through Thanksgiving week. More information about the drive and other ways to help can be found on the Student Community Engagement Center’s webpage.
In addition to the donation drive at PSU, there are more that can be found throughout the city. A compiled list of locations and what they are looking for can be found at the city of Portland’s official website.
When donating food, donors should keep in mind that some people might not have access to certain kitchen items. For example, many individuals donate Kraft Mac & Cheese, but individuals who receive this item from a food bank might not be able to use it due to the lack of milk and butter. Similarly, boxed milk is shelf stable and can be used with donated cereal. Can openers are also items to donate, if not contributing cans with pop tops. Additionally, some items like dishwashing soap and feminine hygiene products are in high demand.
Most donations occur in the winter due to the holidays, however, donations are still requested year-round. For students facing food insecurity, there are campus resources. At PSU, the Free Food Market is held at the South Park Blocks every second Monday, and the Food Pantry is open in room 47A in the basement of the Smith Memorial Student Union by appointment.
Portland State’s Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative continues to research and advocate for houseless students on campus and in the community and has more information on their website.