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The Blue & Gray Press | December 13, 2018

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Community helps homeless

BY VICTORIA MOORE

The University of Mary Washington participated in a statewide initiative to place homeless families in permanent housing last November.  Through joint student and faculty fundraisers, the UMW community raised approximately $5,000 for the program.

According to the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness (VCEH) website, the Rapid Re-Housing Challenge spanned over 100 days with a goal of housing 750 families. VCEH reports that as of Jan. 13, 2014 the campaign housed a total of 450 families. Various organizations and communities took part in the challenge to help families move out of shelters and into their own homes.

The Fredericksburg area participated in the campaign through the Central Virginia Housing Coalition, setting a goal of housing 35 local families. Leslie Martin, associate professor of sociology and anthropology at UMW heard about the campaign, and asked other faculty to help spread the word.

“I still can’t get over how generously people responded. So many people sent money and passed the email on to everybody in their department, or to other people they knew. I got a few donations from people I didn’t know, which is just amazing,” Martin said.

According to Martin, it takes approximately $3,500 to house one family, and UMW raised that amount in two weeks. Martin reached out to Kimmy Slater, a senior sociology major, for help in getting students involved with the campaign.

Students collected $360 in donations by going door to door in the residences halls. University President Rick Hurley matched student contributions. Through this and additional fundraising at the Thanksgiving dinner in Seacobeck Hall, students raised approximately $1,000.

“[Fundraising] makes it seem like everyone is closer together in the school and community,” said freshman Allie Cox.

Service plays a large role in the UMW community, and the fundraising program to raise money for Fredericksburg families showcases this value.

“It helps foster harmony between the city and students. It shows that students are not just out partying but are doing good things,” said senior Stephanie Hein.  “Also, as a Fredericksburg resident, I like seeing the students involved in the community.”

When Martin submitted the last of donations from UMW to the Central Virginia Housing Coalition, she said they expressed interest in coming to come to the university and giving a presentation about the family that received housing from UMW’s contributions.

“I love the idea that this would be something very concrete for people to see. Here’s a specific family that we have helped move from homelessness into housing,” said Martin.

UMW faculty, staff and students successfully pulled together to support their community, but, as Martin pointed out, there is still more to do.

“Now I wonder what Mary Washington could do to create some kind of sustained effort to help with our affordable housing needs,” said Martin. “I don’t know what it is but I bet we could do something awesome. We’ve got smart people here, we could figure something out.”