Kennesaw State’s Homelessness Awareness Week features immersive experience

KENNESAW, Ga. | Nov 4, 2022

Atlanta area anti-poverty activist Terence Lester said a desire to help homeless people led him to establish the Dignity Museum, a mobile exhibit to help the public fully understand the challenge of having no place to call home.


“We need to really understand that homelessness can visit any one of us at any given moment,” said Lester, founder of LoveBeyondWalls, which created the Dignity Museum and is dedicated to helping people living in poverty. As part of his research, Lester spent a month living on the streets himself.

The Dignity Museum is a converted shipping container that is coming to Kennesaw State University during its 15th annual Homelessness Awareness Week, Nov. 7-11. On its walls the museum shows the faces and tells the stories of those forced by circumstances to live on the street. The museum aims to challenge visitors to confront their ideas of homelessness and what it takes to escape it, Lester said. Tours are available on KSU’s Kennesaw Campus from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The week of events and service initiatives, hosted by Campus Awareness, Resource & Empowerment (CARE) Services, is a high-impact experience dedicated to increasing awareness of homelessness and basic needs insecurities in communities and college campuses.

“The Dignity Museum is a powerful visual way to bring attention to the plight of homelessness,” said Marcy Stidum, director of CARE Services.

Stidum said the museum’s goal aligns with CARE’s goal for Homelessness Awareness Week — to increase awareness and support for students who need the services, but also for more students to know CARE is ready to help.

CARE Services operates four programs with a central mission to provide access to food, temporary housing, and other supportive services to foster students’ realization of a healthy, stable, and dignified life academically and professionally.

Stidum said she’s seen more rental or housing assistance requests through CARE since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, with the average request rising from $800 to about $1,200 per student. In 2021, CARE housed 54 students in temporary beds within KSU Housing, plus an additional 50 in hotel stays while those rooms were full. An additional 80 students received rental assistance.  

“These numbers don’t include the former foster youth who are students, or requests from students experiencing an unexpected hardship, and the number of students who have shopped the food pantry,” Stidum said. “We want any student who is in need of assistance to know we’re here for them to make a potentially dark time in their lives a little easier.”


Other events during Homelessness Awareness Week include:

Hoot Out Hunger
The annual campus and community food drive ends Nov. 12. Help CARE Services restock its pantries to continue serving any KSU student in need of food. Donate online, at sporting events or at CARE Services bin locations at either KSU campus.

Empty Bowls
The Empty Bowls Project is part of an effort to raise both money and awareness to fight hunger and homelessness. Participants select handmade bowls crafted by KSU students, alumni and local community members. The event will be held from noon to 1 p.m. on Nov. 10 in the Carmichael Student Center, and lunch will be served. Be sure to register.

Cobb County Homeless Vigil
The annual Cobb County Homeless Vigil honors the lives of those who have died while experiencing homelessness in Cobb County. The candlelight vigil will be held on Kennesaw State’s Marietta Campus at 7 p.m. on Nov. 11.

United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Spark Prize Pitch Competition
The 2022 Spark Prize Pitch Competition is a partnership between Kennesaw State and United Way of Greater Atlanta that awards small grants to fund collaborative and innovative projects. Winners of the “Shark Tank” style competition will receive small grants for projects that address pressing homelessness challenges and improve child well-being. 

Campus to Community Housing Forum
The Campus to Community Forum is a new series developed by KSU’s Office of Economic Development and Community Engagement to bring together University and industry experts to engage in a dialogue about some of the state’s most pressing topics. On Nov. 7, the forum will be presented on housing and housing insecurity.

– By Thomas Hartwell
Photos courtesy LoveBeyondWalls

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