Habitat for Humanity had its first Act, Speak, Build event Monday in Coffman Union, encouraging students to support affordable housing and the homeless.
Lindsey Ruth, vice president of Habitat for Humanity’s University chapter, said the event was intended to educate students about affordable housing and homelessness in Minnesota.
“We want to show how big of an issue (it) really is here, and make the issue a part of students’ conscience,” Ruth said.
Habit for Humanity aims to become more involved with the student body this year and focus on educational events that promote its cause, Ruth said.
She said many people don’t realize how expensive Twin Cities housing is — an average home costs $175,000, she said.
Students who attended the event were able to take part in fighting homelessness by getting information from booths and signing up to be a part of Habitat for Humanity at the University.
Students also could register for Habitrot, a 5-kilometer run scheduled for April 23 to raise money for the organization.
Mary Helen Inskeep, a continuing education student in petrology and geochemistry, said society is not taking the issue of affordable housing seriously, and it is one the biggest reasons people end up homeless.
“What it boils down to is human rights. Good housing should not be a privilege, it should be a right,” Inskeep said.
She said suburbs are unwilling to build large housing complexes because they think it will create crime, but instead they build expensive homes that the average family cannot afford.
Society needs to revamp its values and work together to fight issues of homelessness and increase the availability of affordable housing, she said.
“It’s OK to start small, but start,” Inskeep said.
Students also could speak out on affordable housing and homelessness issues by writing a letter to the Legislature or signing a petition to pass a bill that has been proposed in the Legislature for $33 million in bonding for supportive housing.
The bill, supported by Housing Minnesota, an organization Habitat for Humanity works with, focuses on ending long-term homelessness.
Mike Davey, organizing coordinator of Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, who spoke at the event, said it is important for students to get involved by developing relationships with their city and state elected officials.
“These are the folks that represent us and it is important they know what we think,” Davey said. “Let’s educate them on what is important to us.”
Davey said the government is not doing enough to fight these issues and that faith-based support alone is not adequate. He said faith-based organizations are doing all they can but they cannot do it alone.
Noting that 30 percent of homeless people are employed, he said many homeless people who are working cannot pay rent because of high housing costs.
The event also featured a video called “Land of 10,000 Homeless” which addressed the issue of homelessness in the Twin Cities.
Students could paint on a mural that represented poverty and its effects on the world.
Public relations senior Ryan McCormick said that at first he came to the event because he saw a free-food sign but decided to look around.
“I think it’s an important issue, and Habitat for Humanity has an important cause,” he said.
McCormick said he thinks the issue of affordable housing and homelessness is especially important in Minnesota because of the weather.
“Addressing the economic issue and making housing more affordable is essential to helping homelessness,” he said. “It is something that needs to be addressed.”
Habitat for Humanity addresses these issues at the University by each year sponsoring a house and raising $10,000 to build it, Ruth said.
Ruth said she hopes the event will encourage students to become involved in Habitat for Humanity and take part in building projects, as well as be aware and supportive of affordable housing.