Homeless community asks for new involvement from students

“My Brothers Keeper” is located at 1217 Mary Ave. Waco, TX. Olivia Havre | photographer

By Raylee Foster | Staff writer

Homelessness rates in McLennan County have fluctuated over the years, and many continually struggle to find housing. There is a lot of stigma surrounding homelessness. The homeless community has a different message to Baylor students about the type of help they need.

According to Data USA, 18.3% of McLennan County’s 254,000 residents live with serious housing problems.

Emily Demieri, a sophomore in Virginia Beach, Virginia, said that people’s behaviors toward the homeless are often badly influenced by assumptions they make about the community. These assumptions can be societal or personal, but they are mostly negative.

“People are definitely scared and don’t like to be around [the homeless population] in a way,” Demieri said.

Antonio Randolph, a member of Waco’s homeless community, said people make assumptions about the homeless community and overlook the flaws in society that contribute to it.

“The problem is out there in society,” Randolph said. “It’s kind of a reverse psychology thing – looking at us like we’re wrong and they’re right, but [society] suffers more than the homeless.”

Randolph said people were quick to feel sorry for the homeless community, but there was more resistance to acknowledging there were larger societal issues that needed to be addressed.

Bethany Watson, a sophomore at Lubbock, said many of the stigmas she’s heard about the homeless community seem to have been instilled in many from a young age.

“It’s what we’ve all been taught, like, ‘Don’t talk to strangers,'” Watson said.

Both Demieri and Watson said they believe most homeless people are harmless and only ask for help because “it’s what they have to do.”

However, Randolph said the homeless community needs a different kind of help than most people expect.

“It’s not about giving out money or giving out food, nothing like that,” Randolph said. “People don’t need that, they need love, they need that friendship. It’s scientifically proven.”

Randolph also said that the attitude with which people approach their ministry is important.

“I can’t tell anyone what to do, but like I said, it’s in your heart,” Randolph said. “If you feel you need to help someone, do it from the heart — not to show off. Not to see it or try to make a name for it. Do it from the heart.”

Eric Bryant, also a member of Waco’s homeless community, agreed with Randolph’s belief that compassion is more important than supplies. He said offering time, talent and building relationships are more important than donations.

“Involve a little more, you know,” Bryant said. “Backstage [students are] probably do a lot, but not that much outside.”

Bryant also said that Baylor students — in their attempt to become more involved — could serve the homeless community with their talents. When asked what he would ask of the Baylor community, he said education.

“More contact with people who are learning to read. You know, there are still people out there who can’t read,” Bryant said. “I don’t know if they need GEDs or something, but some basic math skills and stuff like that. I think that would be helpful.”

Mission Waco is a local and global nonprofit organization that provides opportunities to get involved in the community. For more information on serving the McLennan County homeless community, visit their website.

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