Fighting Homelessness from Coast to Coast


USC Alternative Spring Break group pictured with CFH Health Education Team

Most college students spend their spring break resting, catching up on assignments, or yes, even partying. This year, a group of students from the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles chose to do an alternative spring break in New York where they volunteered with Care for the Homeless (CFH). If you are not familiar with alternative spring breaks, it is fairly self-explanatory: they are breaks schools offer to students that have a service or charitable focus.  What is particularly impressive about this group is that this is the second year that students from USC have travelled across the country to volunteer with CFH.  Both trips were organized by student coordinator, Mohamed El-Farra—his second year organizing and participating in the trip—an undergraduate student who will graduate this spring with both a Bachelor’s degree in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and a Master’s degree in Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine.
Mohamed serves healthy snacks to the residents of Susan's Place

Mohamed learned of CFH several years ago after researching various nonprofit organizations online that serve people experiencing homelessness in New York City (NYC). Care for the Homeless’ “goals to end homelessness aligned very well with what I believed needed to be done to address the epidemic of homelessness,” he said. The goal of the break was for Mohamed and his classmates to learn about the efforts New Yorkers are making to end homelessness. Mohamed believes that NYC does a better job at providing temporary housing for its homeless citizens than California does. “New York is by far one of the more progressive states in terms of laws for the homeless such as the ‘Right to Shelter’ law,” he stated. Therefore, he wanted to motivate and educate his classmates on the possible solutions to end homelessness by using a trip to NYC as a case study.

“Education is a key aspect of service which I think is overlooked,” Mohamed said. During their week-long trip, the USC students volunteered at Susan’s Place where they taught the residents the value of practicing healthy eating habits. “The most rewarding part of our service was to see that the student volunteers who joined me on this trip understood more about homelessness after interacting with the residents at Susan’s Place,” says Mohamed. The USC students were able to relate to the women of Susan’s Place in more ways than they imagined. “They realized that being homeless is not always because someone made a poor choice in life, but rather sometimes things happen that are out of your control,” he continued.

A USC student prepares parfaits for the residents of Susan's Place
Mohamed says he wished that more people understood that these are individuals experiencing homelessness and they are people first. They should not be defined by their lack of shelter. “They are just like you and me,” Mohamed says. “More people need to understand that people experiencing homelessness deserve as much respect as you and I,” he continued.

Mohamed was surprised by “how accessible and willing” CFH was to allow his group to come in and volunteer at Susan’s Place. “You guys accommodated my group in every way possible and took the time out of your busy days to actually help educate us on the issue of homelessness. I would recommend volunteering with CFH to everyone who is interested in learning more about homelessness and the importance of policy and advocacy in combating the issue,” said Mohamed. We are immensely grateful to the students of USC for their generous contribution of time and dedication to ending homelessness.  If you would like to join the students of USC in the fight against homelessness, please consider making a gift today. Your donation can change a life and make a difference, thank you!

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