By Lynn Colburn
On Sunday, November 20, a group of about 35 people walked from the Wells Center to New Directions in a three-mile walk/run around Jacksonville. People who participated donated bottled water, laundry soap, personal care items, paper items and cleaning supplies, in addition to cash, to support the New Directions Warming and Cooling Center.
Executive Director Vanessa Tyus enlisted the assistance of Illinois College students from several groups including the Social Stratification class, whose members researched, organized, created and implemented the day’s events. These college students took the participants on a walk that gave everyone a general background into homelessness. The walk began with the causes, which included a talk about substance abuse at the Wells Center, information about abuse and how it affects women and children at the Women’s Crisis center. The information on the walk then lead them to the Veterans Memorial, where they learned circumstances and issues that can affect our Veterans, and later to the Memorial Behavioral Health center to learn about the various mental health issues that lead many people to the streets, and more.
Walkers also participated in activities that showed what homeless individuals could face, including how difficult it is to make a shelter from boxes or routing through trash to find edible food. The walk ended with a race to the shelter to simulate how only the first four individuals to arrive that night would be let in on a 20 below zero night before doors must be locked because the shelter is full.
Participants included area residents, young and old, college students from MacMurray College and Illinois College and even shelter residents. This event is meant to bring awareness to area homelessness and its issues during the National Homeless Awareness Month of November.