Academics

Helping the Homeless

SHU Students, Faculty and Staff Help Share the Warmth Program Provide Needed Shelter, Compassion for Area's Less Fortunate

Helping the Homeless

SHU Students, Faculty and Staff Help Share the Warmth Program Provide Needed Shelter, Compassion for Area's Less Fortunate

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By Ryan Shircliff, Student Writer

 

Siena Heights University students shared their time this winter and spring by participating in the Share the Warmth project.

 

Share the Warmth is a non-profit venture that gives area homeless a place to stay and a comfortable bed to sleep in. The Salvation Army in downtown Adrian provides the shelter, and, from 7 p.m.-8 a.m., those in need get a reprieve from the Michigan cold.

 

Longtime SHU English faculty member Sister Pat Schnapp was a major factor in beginning Share the Warmth. She got the idea after witnessing the reality of homelessness first-hand.

 

“One particularly bitter winter day, I was driving home from the mall and coming up Locust Street,” Sister Pat said. “It was freezing. I was with someone else and was whining about the cold when I saw a man and he looked like he was wearing everything he possibly owned on his body. … He had gloves on that didn’t have fingers in them and he was foraging through a garbage bag in someone’s front yard and pulling out the cans, beer and pop cans, and putting them in another plastic bag. I realized immediately he was doing this to get money, 10 cents per can. On the other side of the street was a very, very dinged up old pickup truck. And there was a woman sitting on the passenger side in the front seat. … I realized that they were no doubt homeless and probably lived in their truck. They were struggling to get just a little bit of money, probably for food. I was struck to the heart. I can’t tell you when I have been so pierced by that sight. … So I vowed that I would try to address the issue.”

 

Sister Pat worked with community and church leaders to begin the program, first at St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s Catholic churches in Adrian, then at the Salvation Army in downtown Adrian. This winter, the program was open for more than four months, and averaged about 10-12 guests per night.

 

SHU Campus Minister Tom Puszczewicz and Sister Pat have asked SHU campus groups to get involved, and the response has been positive.

 

“We volunteer with the Salvation Army,” said Siena Heights student and participant Rachel Perez. “The homeless can come in from seven at night and stay until eight in the morning when they get breakfast. The event gives them a place to stay.”

 

“Tom Puszczewicz asked us (the volleyball team) to do community service that we do every year,” SHU student Melissa Hall said. “This year we chose to do Share the Warmth, and we chose to do two different dates.”

 

Siena students are involved in many community service events throughout the year, but Share the Warmth can be an experience unlike any other.

“It gives us (students) a chance to give back to the community,” Perez said. “It also gives us a chance to break down stereotypes of homeless people, and being able to interact really helps us help those less fortunate.”

 

“For many, it has put them out of their comfort zone, but a lot of them are delighted by the experience,” Sister Pat said. “It broadens their sense of what our world and our culture and our society is like.”

 

Students have said it can even be a fun experience. Students play games and interact with the homeless to keep the experience a joyful and fulfilling event for everyone involved.

 

“I love getting to hear the stories,” Perez said. “Some of them are very funny, and they’re all really interesting.”

 

“I think it profoundly raises our level of awareness of how privileged we are not to be in that situation and how good it feels to be doing something that is making a difference in the life of someone else in a positive way,” Sister Pat said. “We’ve been delighted with the response of the churches, the community and our students here.”

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