25 percent of Whatcom County’s homeless population is under the age of 18.
That statistic was on a sign held by junior and communication studies major Kyla Blair.
“I thought that was really important to know because there are a lot of stereotypes of what a typical homeless person looks like. In Whatcom County there are a lot of families together,” Blair said.
On Monday, Feb. 13, students in two communication studies classes gathered outside the Western Associated Students Bookstore and Vendors Row to give students information on upcoming events for End Homelessness WWU.
End Homelessness WWU is a student program coordinated by associate professor Tara Perry of the communication studies department. Its mission is to raise awareness and stop the growth of homelessness in Whatcom County.
“We are trying to raise awareness of how invisible students experiencing homelessness are”
Junior Lucia Gruber
The classes do this through projects like the Social Justice Film Festival and the Invisible People campaign on campus. The group has been running through Perry’s communication classes since winter of 2015.
The students who held signs also made films for this quarter’s Social Justice Film Festival, Perry said. The festival features short films that tie into the theme of social justice.
Junior and communication studies major Lucia Gruber, held signs with Perry. Gruber is in Communication Studies 228 and worked on a day in the life film.
The class was split into groups, each group focusing on a different organization in the community, Gruber said. They interviewed different members from the organizations and created films that follow different community members.
Gruber’s film follows students experiencing homelessness at Western.
“We are trying to raise awareness of how invisible students experiencing homelessness are,” Gruber said. “You might be couch surfing and staying at friend’s houses. Unfortunately that’s not viewed as homeless enough compared to people who might be sleeping out on the streets or in camps.”
Blair’s film is about Lydia’s Place and focuses on the thrift store Wise Buys which supports it.
“Anyone can donate and all proceeds go to help families and women experiencing homelessness in Bellingham to find housing,” Blair said. “We tried to say it’s really simple to help and anyone can do it.”
Blair said she has learned from Lydia’s Place that it’s really important to get kids who are experiencing homelessness into houses while they’re young.
“It tends to be a cycle.” Blair said. “To show them it’s possible to have reliable housing and to be successful in life and have all their needs met is really important. By starting with kids we can break that cycle.”
The Social Justice Film festival is from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, March 1, in Fraser Hall 102. The space will be much bigger than last quarter’s festival in the Communications Facility, Perry said.
The Invisible People Campaign will be from Friday, Feb. 17, to Friday, March 3, throughout campus.