Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week brings awareness to campus



Song-Binh Ngo

This year, the University celebrated the 41st anniversary of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, which ran from Nov. 13 to Nov. 18. HHAW, a long celebrated Villanova tradition, aims to educate the the University community on hunger and homelessness and ways to serve and advocate for the millions who are affected by hunger and homelessness every day.

HHAW began on the University’s campus in 1975, when a group of students came together to raise awareness for hunger and homelessness. Under the guidance of the late Father Ray Jackson, the students coordinated a week of events in an effort to educate others on hunger and homelessness. Since then, HHAW has become nationally recognized and is observed on over 500 college campuses nationwide. At the University, HHAW is observed annually, the week before Thanksgiving. “HHAW is the week before Thanksgiving every year, which is purposeful,” Sarah Lamb, the president of HHAW, said. “As we think about going home and eating well, it is important to think about those in our community who do not have those luxuries.” 

The group of students that organizes HHAW is comprised of six committees that coordinate the week of events. HHAW partners with several organizations based on and off campus, such as Catholic Relief Services, Back on My Feet, Fair Trade, Campus Ministry and the Coalition for the Homeless, that participate in the various events throughout the week. 

Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week kicked off on Sunday with a fundraiser at SNAP Pizza. Proceeds went to Philabundance, a local organization that aims to eradicate hunger in local communities through various programs that aid those who are affected by hunger, and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia food bank. Sunday night’s student masses also focused on the topic of hunger and homelessness. 

On Monday, HHAW hosted a Real Talk with the Association for Change and Transformation, a student group based on campus to give Villanova students a safe space to engage in dialogue regarding tough issues. HHAW and ACT’s Real Talk focused on the topic of “Handling Homelessness.” In addition to the Real Talk, HHAW hosted a lunch packaging event for Bridges, an organization based in Summit, New Jersey that aims to reach out to homeless individuals in the city. Bridges’ mission is to bridge the gap between volunteers and those experiencing homelessness through volunteer programs through which volunteers deliver meals, clothing and other necessities to the homeless in the city. 

On Tuesday, HHAW hosted the Fair Trade Fair, one of the organizations with which HHAW partners. “Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week partners with and endorses fair trade because it fits very well into our mission and goals,” Erin Donnelly, the outreach committee chair, said. “When a product is considered a fair trade item, it means that the worker who created it was paid fair wages and provided a proper work environment.”

HHAW’s annual keynote address took place on Wednesday night. This year, HHAW welcomed three members of the Coalition for the Homeless, an organization based in Washington, D.C. whose mission is to provide support to those recovering from homelessness. 

The three speakers on the panel, Karen Ennis, James Davis and Sheila Melvin, shared poignant stories of their experiences with homelessness and how it affected their lives.

On Thursday, HHAW partnered with Catholic Relief Services, a student group based on campus for the Bread and Soup Lunch for Haiti. This event allowed students to learn about and reflect on the refugee crisis in Haiti. Thursday night, HHAW hosted the annual solidarity sleep-out at the eclipse. 

The annual solidarity sleep-out gives students the opportunity to reflect while living a night in the shoes of those who are affected by homelessness. “The sleep-out is a really meaningful event because it increases our understanding of the realities of the lives of people experiencing homelessness in the cold winter months and the holiday season,” Lamb said.  

HHAW culminated on Friday afternoon with the Hunger Run, a 5K that benefited Back on my Feet, an organization that works to support and connect community members to those who are recovering from homelessness through running together three days a week in the early morning. 

HHAW is one of the unique Villanova traditions that embodies the University’s principles of Unitas and Caritas by bringing the community together to reach a better understanding of an issue that affects millions. 

At the eve of the holiday season, HHAW educates and raises awareness an important issue that affects millions every day. “The issues of hunger and homelessness are prevalent everywhere, from 20 minutes down the road in Philadelphia to developing countries around the world,” Lamb said. “I hope that the work and advocacy work we do through HHAW helps to energize the Villanova community to fight for change and fight for a world where everyone has a roof over their heads.”