Alex Heldrich, Reporter
One dozen Pierce College Puyallup students sorted clothing for the homeless at the New Hope Resource Center in downtown Puyallup on March 5.
Upon arriving, the student volunteers filed into a small room with piles of clothes. A volunteer welcomed the students and took them on a tour of the building which includes a pantry, storage room filled with clothing and a room for homeless people to store their belongings. There’s also a living space for homeless people to relax and watch TV. After meeting a few other volunteers, students got to work. The group split into two divisions: four students helped homeless people select clothing from the small front room and the rest sorted and organized clothing in the storage room.
Social Issues and Awareness Coordinator Emmalee Chamberlain planned the event.
Another component of the event was learning about mental illness.
“A lot of homeless people are mentally ill because our mental health programs are really screwed up,” Chamberlain said. “I wanted students to know why they’re helping and who.”
Twenty to 25 percent of homeless people in the United States suffer from some form of severe mental illness, according to nationalhomeless.org. To give perspective, only about 6 percent of Americans are severely mentally ill. The website also states that homeless patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are especially vulnerable.
The center specializes in caring for homeless people in the Puyallup community. On a daily average, there are about 80 to 90 people in the center, estimated one of the volunteers. The center typically stays open until 3 p.m. With additional volunteers, the center can stay open longer, one of the volunteers said.
Other services offered at the center include personal care such as providing haircuts, dental service and laundry service. There are also life skill development activities such as practice job interviews, money management skills and conflict resolution.
The center works with other churches and homeless organizations to help the homeless community. From November to March, vans from Freezing Nights bring homeless people to and from the center from churches where they may spend the night. The center eventually plans to add showers so that the homeless may take regular showers instead of traveling to the YMCA or having to wait until the weekend when a local church allows them to use their shower facilities.
“My family was in that place at one point and I think that a lot of people just help because they think it’s the right thing to do, not because they’re empathetic towards the community,” student Ashyr Clairé said, adding that they plan on going back each week. “I want to show the homeless community that there’s more out there for them and that it does get better.”
Chamberlain said that she’s happy with how the event turned out because everyone who signed up attended. She plans on hosting more service project events in spring quarter.
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