University Relations and Marketing

Contacts:
Brittany Quade, MSU Billings Chapter, Habitat for Humanity, 896-5815
Kathy Kotecki, Director, Office for Community Involvement, 657-1660
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269

March 27, 2008

Building Awareness

MSU Billings’ Habitat for Humanity chapter begins weeklong awareness campaign on homelessness

By Dan Carter
MSU Billings News Services

Brittany Quade has immersed herself in health and human services issues during her tenure at Montana State University Billings. It’s her major, but it’s also her passion.

""She’s been working to transfer that zeal to her fellow students and others at MSU Billings to help make a difference in housing and homeless issues. Working in the university’s Office of Community Involvement and serving as student president of the MSU Billings campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity, Quade will be working next week to not only raise awareness about homelessness issues, but will roll up her sleeves and do something about it.

She and MSU Billings students will make sandwiches for the hungry at the Montana Rescue Mission, will help homeless individuals make connections with a variety of community services, will experience a night of homeless existence in a box and do a little construction work.

“For people who do it, it’s a real eye-opening experience,” said Quade, a senior health and human performance major from Billings.

“It” is all part of “Act! Speak! Build! Week 2008” — March 28 to April 5 — a Habitat for Humanity International effort to engage young people in helping their communities address issues of housing and homelessness. Over the next several days, students and others at MSU Billings will be involved in:

  • Friday, March 28: Project Homeless Connect at Parmly Billings Library. The event is in its second year and is sponsored by the Mayor's Committee on Homelessness. It runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the third floor of the Parmly Billings Library and is designed to provide a one-day, one-stop occasion where homeless people can find out more about local social services and get access to food, health care and other assistance. About 17 MSU Billings students will be on hand to greet homeless individuals, collecting some demographic information and personally introducing them to service providers.
  • Saturday, March 29: A Service Saturday project to make sandwiches for the Montana Rescue Mission. Volunteers will work from 10 a.m. to noon in the Student Union Building and deliver the sandwiches in time for lunch at the mission.
  • Thursday, April 3 and Friday April 4: Students will be involved in the university’s fourth annual Box Town event. Box Town is a makeshift living community of several students and others that is designed to bring awareness to issues of poverty and homeless. It will be set up on the grassy area between McMullen Hall and the Student Union Building and students will stay in their box shelters from noon on Thursday to noon on Friday, including an overnight stay. Dubbed “A Bad Night’s Sleep for a Good Cause,” Quade said students can gain a deeper understanding of what it’s like to be homeless through the over-nighter.
  • Saturday, April 5: A Habitat for Humanity build day at a local Habitat house. Students will meet at the SUB, Room 220 at 8 a.m. to get work orders for the day, which will conclude at 3: 30 p.m.

Quade said this week is busier than those in the past, but the issues are important.

“Last year when we slept out overnight, we had blankets and pillows and sleeping bags and even with all that, we were still cold,” she said, noting the life of a homeless person is a much harder existence. “You really get an idea of what’s going on in our area.”
She said students at MSU Billings know that homelessness exists in Billings, but often don’t know the extent.  By working on these projects, however, she said students can do something tangible right here in Billings.

The overall concern of homelessness and poverty housing is seemingly daunting.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, millions of Americans are facing insurmountable housing issues.

More than 13 million households pay more than 50 percent of their income for housing and 6.1 million households are in overcrowded conditions (where the number of people living in the house is greater than the total number of rooms).  The number of people who live on the streets in a day-to-day existence is harder to track because of the transient nature of that demographic.

The Mayor’s Committee on Homelessness recently reported these stats to shed some light on the issue locally:

  • Of 2,217 Montana homeless people counted in a Jan. 31 volunteer survey, one-third was in Billings.
  • One-third of that number was employed either full- or part-time.
  • There are an estimated 2,000 roving homeless who pass through Billings every year who require medical, lodging, food, transportation or other services.
  • Families with children are the fastest-growing segments of the homeless population.
  • In 2006, Billings School District 2 counted 326 homeless pupils, mostly ages 5-8.

For more information on the events to volunteer, contact Quade at 896-5815. To find out more about volunteer opportunities at the MSU Billings Office for Community Involvement, call Kathy Kotecki at 657-1660.

PHOTO ABOVE: Brittany Quade, student president of the Montana State University Billings campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity, works on promotion of the “Act! Speak! Build! Week 2008” events involving MSU Billings students. The Box Town event will involve an overnight experience in boxes and sparse supplies for students who want to have a better understanding of what it is like to be homeless.

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