John Carroll University Students Get a Glimpse of Homeless Life in Cleveland

Commentary by Brendan McLaughlin

For college students across the country, Spring Break is their chance to escape the cold, unforgiving Cleveland winters and experience life in exotic locations, like Cancun and the Bahamas.  But for nine members of the John Carroll University community, it meant learning about the plight and difficulties of those who live on the streets of Cleveland.

     For a week this past March these students and staff lived in a small two bedroom apartment above the Catholic Worker Storefront and visited places like 2100 Lakeside, NEOCH and the West Side Catholic Center with the intention of becoming more aware of the problems that face homeless people in Cleveland.  The week -long “immersion experience” began with the Labre Project, a homeless outreach group that is based at John Carroll University whose mission is to offer friendship and food to homeless people in Cleveland. 

    The students all were able to see first hand the problems that face homeless people through direct work with them, such as helping to construct a shelter for one man, or by volunteering their time at an agency like the Cleveland Foodbank. At the end of each evening the students would meet together to talk about their experiences and share their thoughts on what they saw as a great injustice. 

    “Their commitment to community service was evident in those discussions,” said Dr. Richard Hendrickson, a JCU assistant professor who helped guide the experience. “They saw the work of the many who help the homeless people in Cleveland, and dedicated themselves to similar efforts in the world in the future.”

    Sophomore Robert Duns, of Auburn, Ohio, felt a specific call to help those in need.  “We don’t have homeless people on the streets out here in the country so it was just a different world for me.  I am amazed that the problem is as big as it is with so many people being affected, but I’m even more amazed at the many remarkable people there are who are working so hard to put an end to it.”

    The week was very eventful for the students and Katie Fritz, a senior at Lorain County Community College, described her experience as “an emotional roller coaster.”  She said that there is so much that still needs to be done and hopefully everyone will see that the only way for things to change is a joint effort from all parties involved.  These students have made the first step and are truly willing to do what is needed to help solve one major problem here in Cleveland.

 Copyright Homeless Grapevine, Cleveland Ohio Issue 81 June-July 2007