Humanity 101 In Action: Outreach To Individuals Experiencing Homelessness

One of several Arizona State University initiatives, Project Humanities engages in a year-round community service project with an adult homeless population in downtown Phoenix. Every other Saturday, for the past three years, intergenerational volunteers from across the Valley gather at South 12th Avenue on the sidewalk area between West Jefferson Street and West Madison Street from 6:45–8:15am to participate in Service Saturdays. At this location, volunteers disperse gently used clothing, shoes, toiletries, and other essential items to about 150-200 adults experiencing various stages of homelessness. Donations can be brought into the ASU Project Humanities office on the ASU Tempe campus and are gathered prior to dispersion on the select Saturday. The next Service Saturday events will be held June 3 and June 17. For more information, go to the ASU Project Humanities Facebook page to receive updates or visit the website.

The object of this outreach is to aid those in need of basic life amenities and to do so compassionately, respectfully, and efficiently. This operation is unique because individuals are able to “shop” for the items, and each participant is paired with a volunteer “personal shopper” to guide them through the process. After waiting in line, each shopper is allowed three to five items. The shopper will show their way, and the next person in line will enter the shop with their shopper.

Service Saturdays represents what Project Humanities director, Professor Neal A. Lester, calls “Humanity 101 in action”: “We created programming around principles, that we call Humanity 101: compassion, empathy, forgiveness, integrity, kindness, respect, and self-reflection.”

The initiative is not just to create a classroom discussion about these principles, but also to put these principles into action. Project Humanities has already seen these principles being enacted from children collecting 400 shoes for donation to established organizations contributing 5000 bottles of water toward the cause. Whether they realize it or not, everyone has something to contribute in revitalizing our community’s humanity.

Due to the nature of this outreach, volunteers have the opportunity to interact closely with those experiencing homelessness, and many find the result to be rewarding as well as enjoyable. By setting up the operation in the form of a shop, the process of directly supporting those in need is done through an experience that is thoroughly familiar for everyone involved. The overarching goal of ASU Project Humanities and Humanity 101 is to connect people from different backgrounds while bringing humanity to those in need; the homeless outreach plays an important role in accomplishing this goal, as we are all, in a sense, a part of the same community.


Photo credit: VEGGIE | Republic via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

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