Here’s something that may not be a surprise: Moving people beyond homelessness is hard work. Beyond working with clients, putting in applications, and helping individuals find employment, there are larger institutional blocks that cause people to continue experiencing homelessness, including bad credit, poor backgrounds, and stigma associated with staying in shelter. Shelters all across the country fight many battles to help their clients, and the battle can be harder in some places than others.
While we still face barriers, we are fortunate to live and work in Iowa City, where we have dedicated community members passionate about our mission, city government willing to embrace the conversation of affordable housing, and the world-renowned University of Iowa, which brings in 30,000 passionate Hawkeyes each year, many of whom are looking for opportunities to help their community. While we have always utilized students at Shelter House to help run our Front Desk, assist in our events, and execute group projects, we were excited to have a group of students reach out this fall to start our first official student group at the University of Iowa, Under Your Wing!
Under Your Wing (UYW) was started by current President Gabbie Lozano and Vice President Michael Christopherson in the fall and was named to represent Hawkeye students’ ability to help people experiencing homelessness by showing them compassion and bringing the fight against homelessness under the wide and powerful wing that the University of Iowa provides for them. Gabbie explained her reasoning for wanting to start the group:
“When I moved to Iowa City, I could see that homelessness in our community was not an uncommon situation. I wanted to do something but I felt like I had no knowledge in topics regarding homelessness. I knew multiple University of Iowa student organizations partnered with Shelter House once in a while, but I also knew that there wasn’t a student organization affiliated with Shelter House. Creating a student organization affiliated with Shelter House seemed like the perfect solution to educate myself and others about Shelter House, our community, and homelessness.”
After careful planning with Shelter House staff, the group has focused their goals to raising student awareness of homelessness in the community, providing consistent volunteers, and holding donation drives and fundraisers to help continue moving people beyond homelessness. So far, the group has provided needed volunteer support for our Shelter House Book Sale and helped put on a Trivia Night with UI Social Work students that helped generate over $600! Beyond that, they are providing a group for students passionate about Shelter House and ending homelessness to belong to, share ideas, and create positive change.
Although Gabbie and Michael are seniors and won’t be able to keep leading UYW next fall, they are hopeful about the future of the group and the new Executive Board they have selected to take over. If you are a UI student looking for volunteer opportunities or wanting to get involved with a student group, Gabbie and Michael encourage you to join UYW and help build upon the foundation they laid. As Michael said:
“This organization provides a route for students to use their unique skills to contribute to their surroundings, to help those in our community who’ve fallen on hard times and just need shelter to get back on their feet. We can provide the troops Shelter House needs to combat and end homelessness in our community.”
If you are a student interested in getting involved with Under Your Wing this fall, e-mail their incoming President, Molly, at firstname.lastname@example.org!
We want to say thank you to Gabbie, Michael, and their Executive Board for all the work they have put forth towards creating and promoting Under Your Wing at the University of Iowa. Their work has been critical towards allowing Shelter House’s awareness to grow on campus, and we know it will be a great asset in advancing our mission of moving people beyond homelessness!