Nov 072011
 
Authors: Andrew Carrera

Tailgating and homelessness might not always go hand in hand for the average college student. But for a band of 50 CSU students, it does.

A campus organization called Homeless Awareness Team (HAT) is rallying from Nov. 7 to Dec. 7 in their third annual homeless gear drive that aims to provide the homeless community with eight truckloads of clothing, blankets, packs, sleeping bags and other camping gear by the end of their 30-day effort.

The group is asking the CSU campus to donate what they can at various drop-off locations, including the dorms, recreation center, Clark building and Lory Student Center. They will also be tailgating at the CSU–San Diego State University football game taking place Saturday at 4 p.m. in Hughes Stadium to field donations and raise awareness for their cause.

“Last year, we collected five pickup truckloads and five bikes,” said HAT President Jordan Tranel, a CSU senior construction management major. “I know there’s people out there that are willing to do that, but it’s just a matter of getting them at the right place and the right time.”

All collections will go to Homeless Gear, a Fort Collins nonprofit organization that provides the city’s 500-plus homeless population with equipment often necessary for survival during the area’s freezing winter months.

“They’re not only raising awareness for homelessness in general, but also other agencies that serve the homeless,” said Ken John, executive director of Homeless Gear. “It’s a great example of the power of collaboration between CSU students and the community helping to solve a social need.”

And in a town as quaint as Fort Collins, which was named one of the top 10 best college towns nationwide by USA Today in 2010, homelessness may not seem to be an issue.

But statistics surrounding the issue paint a different story.

“There’s more families homeless than ever before,” John said, adding that 60 percent of Colorado’s homeless population consists of families with children. “You’re also seeing a lot of first-time homeless … and the length of time people are finding themselves stuck in homelessness has increased dramatically.”

John credits this increase in hardship in part to three years of economic turmoil that the local, state and federal government has been unable to reign in.

In light of government’s inability to take care of the homeless population, he said, local groups and organizations like his own and CSU’s HAT are picking up the slack.

“They are able to move more quickly, and in many cases they’re able to do things more effectively than government-run organizations,” he said. “I think you’re seeing a lot more of our types of organizations spring up to take care of these needs.”

This year, HAT is partnering with the campus Student Leadership, Involvement, and Community Engagement (SLiCE) office to put on their homeless gear drive. In years prior, SLiCE ran a separate similar drive, but recently decided to combine its efforts with Tranel’s in hopes of a more successful outcome.

According to Emma Martins, a CSU junior liberal arts major who oversees the partnership on behalf of SLiCE, said the university has provided HAT with marketing supplies paid for by money left over from the popular Cans Around the Oval annual food drive.

“Cans Around the Oval started with a couple kids donating a couple cans. And now, there are truckloads of cans every year,” she said. “I’m excited to be a part of something that I hope to be as big as Cans Around the Oval one day.”

Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at news@collegian.com.

By the numbers

500

The number of individuals who are homeless in Fort Collins.

60 percent

The percentage of the Colorado homeless population that are families with kids.

9

The average age of a homeless person in Colorado.

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