Marina Siegel spent her Monday afternoon placing items like deodorant, notebooks, tissues and bus passes in clear plastic bags, preparing care kits to later be distributed to the homeless men and women who live on the streets of Columbus.
Siegel, a second-year in women’s, gender and sexuality studies and public affairs, was participating in the “Homeless Care Kits for a Caring Columbus” event, hosted by the student organizations Crosswalk Outreach to the Homeless and the Boo Radley Society. The event’s purpose was to show OSU students how they can make a tangible difference in the lives of the homeless, while also raising awareness about the situation of homelessness in Columbus, said Jillian Cressman, one of the organizers of the event and a third-year in social work.
“(Homelessness) is such a huge, overwhelming societal issue, and I think that’s why people sometimes turn away from it — they feel like they can’t do anything,” Cressman said. “But there is stuff we can do. So we want to show people that even if it’s not a huge thing, you can volunteer a little bit at a time.”
At the event, students prepared 100 care kits, comprised of various hygiene items, envelopes, stamps and bus passes.
Cressman said she hopes the envelopes and stamps will be useful to homeless people looking to fill out paperwork or apply to jobs, while the bus passes will allow them to travel anywhere they need to go within the city and provide an opportunity to escape from freezing temperatures or rainy weather.
Students that volunteer with Crosswalk will deliver the care kits throughout the next several weeks, using the packages to supplement their normal weekly delivery of homemade meals.
The care kits might take a while to hand out, Cressman said, as Crosswalk normally sees about 25 homeless people every week.
“The goal of our organization is not to reach a ton people, but to stay in touch with the same people every weekend and check in with them,” she said. “We’re really trying to give people dignity, have conversations with them and just let them know that someone is out there every week checking up on them.”
Crosswalk and the Boo Radley Society decided to collaborate on this event in order to work toward the common goal of spreading kindness throughout the community.
The Boo Radley Society is a student organization dedicated to doing random acts of kindness, and David Barnum, the former director of outreach for the organization and a fourth-year in marketing, said making care kits for the homeless fits that theme perfectly.
“When I think of Columbus, I think of family, I think of community,” he said. “And we can create a community where we all hold each other up and really strengthen each other, so I think that it’s super important for Ohio State students to do that together. We’ve been given a lot of opportunities here, and it’s good to give back and give opportunities to other people out there.”
For Siegel, also a member of the Boo Radley Society, volunteering her time was a way for her to help make people happy, while giving them needed supplies.
“People don’t realize how much community service impacts their own lives as well as other people’s lives,” she said. “I feel like once you start doing community service it becomes a reoccurring thing where you really what to do it, and you start to feel the good you’re getting out of it.”
According to a 2016 report from the Community Shelter Board, there are 1,724 homeless people in Columbus. While the number of homeless individuals across the nation decreased last year, the number in Columbus increased.
“There is a problem of homelessness in Columbus,” Cressman said. “I can’t change society right now, and I can’t give away all my money, but this is something we can do.”
The Engaged Scholars logo accompanies stories that feature and examine research and teaching partnerships formed between the Ohio State University and the community (local, state, national and global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources. These stories spring from a partnership with OSU’s Office of Outreach and Engagement. The Lantern retains sole editorial control over the selection, writing and editing of these stories.