Continuing to raise awareness of hunger and homeless while encouraging residents to reach out will be at the heart of Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week, which kicks off Sunday in the Midlands.
The United Way of the Midlands has planned several educational and interactive activities as part of the second annual event that runs through next Saturday. The week coincides with National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, which falls the week before Thanksgiving each year.
“Our goal with this week of events is to bring awareness and light to some issues that our community is facing every day,” said Anita Floyd, United Way senior vice president for community impact and strategic implementation “We began working with partners two years ago to create a week of local events that would really bring these issues into focus for our community. The events this week are each providing a unique focus in this area.”
Floyd said while some events are intended to highlight and draw attention to the conditions and policies that contribute to homelessness, others will bring attention to the often forgotten faces of homelessness, including families and youth.
As such, she said, some events will give voice to the area’s homeless population by offering first person perspectives. Among those events are a Tuesday art show, featuring works by clients from the Transitions center, and Wednesday’s Evening of Spoken Word, featuring testimonials from area homeless residents.
According to the state’s Homeless Management Information System, 6,034 homeless people were served in the Midlands and surrounding counties by local providers between January 2013 and January 2014. That included 618 formerly homeless people who now live in permanent federal supportive housing. Seventy-six percent, or 4,562, of those clients were homeless, while 1,472 more were at immediate risk of becoming homeless. Thirteen percent were considered chronically homeless.
Floyd said those working to solve the problem of homelessness and hunger know it can’t be done in a week.
“While we raise awareness in particular during this week, we need the community’s interest and support all year long,” she said. “Our hope is that by showing this community what we are dealing with and what steps we can take to fight these issues, we can build the momentum we need to make progress all year long.”
Floyd said residents who want to help combat hunger and homelessness can do so in several ways:
• Make a financial contribution at
• Provide a meal. The Inclement Weather Center in downtown Columbia will open on days when the temperature drops to 40 degrees or below or when snow or ice is present and will serve hot meals to clients who use the facility. Groups are encouraged to contact The Salvation Army at (803) 765-0260 if they want to provide a meal.
• Volunteer. Workers are needed at the center throughout the winter to register clients, hand out blankets and perform other tasks. For a list of individual volunteer opportunities, visituway.org
or contact the United Way’s volunteer center manager, Emerald Anderson-Ford, at email@example.com.