The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

STJ tackles homelessness

St. John’s continued its efforts to
fi ght homelessness with a lecture on the
problems of the shelter system.

In Dr. Heidi Upton’s Discover New
York class, students had been reading “A
Shelter Is Not A Home… Or Is It?,” by
Dr. Ralph Nunez, who runs Homes for
the Homeless, in an effort to understand
the issues facing children in homeless
shelters in New York City.

Upton invited Nunez’s organization
to speak to her students, as well as other
University members, on his book and
the work they have been doing.

Aurora Zepeda, executive vice
president of the organization, about
the work that is being done and what
outsiders need to understand about the
homeless problem.

Zepeda, who has worked with Homes
for the Homeless for more than 20
years, spoke about how she personally
became involved in working for the
cause, something she never expected to
be interested in.

While studying for her Master’s in
Public Policy at Columbia University,
she realized that she was interested in
“following the money” when looking to
solve society’s problems.

“It’s really easy to sit in an offi ce
pushing paper somewhere saying ‘Oh,
it would be nice if they did something
about that,'” she said, encouraging
students to take initiative.

Having worked with Nunez since
their overlapping time at Columbia
University, Zapeda made repeated
references to his book and the
research they have been doing at the
organization’s Institute for Children and
Poverty (ICP).

Much of the work has to do with
homeless children of New York City,
which according to Zapeda, make up the
largest group of homeless people.

“What people don’t know is that the
typical homeless person in America is a
child,” she said. “Our missions to bring
that fact to life, that homelessness is a
children’s problem.”

The ICP and Homes for the Homeless
have extensively researched this theory,
and have begun presenting their ideas
through speeches like this.

Students in the audience interacted
with Zapeda, responding to her questions
and posing their own. Many had spent
time working with the City’s homeless
populationMeredith Leverich, a junior, reflected
on her own personal experiences in
working with the homeless. She had
spent time working with the children in
the nearby Briarwood Family Shelter, a
branch of the New York City Department
of Homeless Services.

“I was really struggling with the
fact that I knew that their educational
experience was not the same as mine,”
Leverich said. “But I really didn’t see
how they will survive with the resources
they have been given.”

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