With Justice For All?
Homeless Stories and Statistics
Justice For All
For this humanities project, we were given the broad topic of solving an injustice in Durango and asked to find a way that we can raise awareness around the issue. The assignment changed a little over time, but the final product was to be an art piece, educational piece, or a community outreach project that would help to change people's perceptions of the topic and hopefully push them to make a change for the better. In the beginning of this project, we started by reading Dr. King’s ideas of Civil Disobedience and what his idea of what a just law and unjust law was. This helped us to understand what people saw as morally fine and what was dehumanizing. After studying Dr. King, we moved on and studied multiple moral and political philosophies of justice that have changed the way our legal system functions. These philosophies included Deontology, which is duty over personal motives, Utilitarianism, meaning the many before the few, John Rawls’ who believed in basic rights and opportunities for all, and Libertarianism, which means you are a free person not governed by any laws. These philosophies helped us to understand how people view right and wrong, and why there are so many issues that are hard to solve. Eventually, we started to research various issues of injustice in Durango and heard from community organizations about issues in the area, which ranged from homelessness to environmental conservation. Finally, we researched these issues and then decided, as a class, to try to tackle homelessness. To do this, we researched homelessness, hearing from various community organizations who work on this issue, many of which were small businesses trying to make a difference on the local level such as Ed Aber, Food Not Bombs, the Veteran Homestead Project, and even Axis Health Care. After contacting some of these people, we were able to take a field trip to the Test Tracks area where a main homeless camp was established. Having researched and viewed these issues firsthand, we voted and created the problem and goal of what our event was to be focused around. This then led into us planning the event and creating projects that we hoped would achieve our goal, which was to help the homeless community.
Our event was a community focused exhibition where we brought in guest speakers to speak of what they are doing to help, and we were hoping to bring in as many people experiencing homelessness as possible and have them interact with others. We created a free meal for everyone to partake in, even going as far to receive donations from large food services in our area. Overall, the event was focused on creating a safe environment where people can and see firsthand what goes on with the homeless population in our area and even nationwide. Being at the event and exhibiting our project was so much different than I had initially envisioned. I thought it might be like every other exhibition where people come, look at the projects, and then leave. However, this time people came to the event saw the projects, stayed for the meal, engaged with the community members and overall had an exciting time. I found it invigorating to see how many people who are homeless were able to come and experience it as well. I think that most memorable experience I had was when a homeless man we had interviewed for our project come and see firsthand the effort everyone had put into their projects. It was cool because he came up to our project, saw it, and then sparked an amazing conversation about his experiences and all the people he knew. It was super memorable because I learned so much more than our initial interview and it was cool to see how much he seemed to appreciate what everyone was doing to change their lives for the better.
At the start of creating our project, I didn’t feel like I was pushing myself to go past my comfort zone and challenge myself. I had started by just working on my computer and doing research on homeless statistics. However, I realized we were going to need to take photos for our project, which would involve interviewing people and asking for their permission. I am typically introverted, and going up to a stranger was way-way-way outside of what I found myself comfortable doing. This is where I pushed myself because when I had my first interview with a homeless community member, I was nervous. However, after talking to him for a few minutes I felt like it was a normal thing to do and both of us opened up and ended up talking for at least thirty minutes. I did this multiple times, and even though it was something I found slightly stressful, I found that it became easier over time. Throughout the start of the project, I felt that I was taking the easy way out because I was just doing research online, however, once I got into it I feel that I really did challenge myself to go farther, simply because I really did want to help these people that I had interviewed. To an extent, I feel that I contributed most all of the time and there were very few moments when I left work for someone else to do. I think that overall I was able to push myself out of my comfort zone with interviews and was also able to work effectively with my group member most of the time.
While the exhibition turned out much better than I initially planned, what I think really changed was how I viewed the world after this whole project. When we started this project, I wasn’t really into it, and I felt that learning about philosophies was going to be a waste of time. However, after we studied situations that involved choosing between what might be wrong and right, and how different philosophies approached these, I started to think about what philosophy I followed and how I would react in those situations. I think I developed these thoughts when we were watching a video about how people tried to explain things to those who have never seen the outside world, just a cave wall, and they were unable to understand because all they had known was the wall. I think this sparked my mind because this was basically saying that the reason I saw things the way I did was because I had never seen anything different. I think that after this, I wanted to find out what I believed in and why I believed in it. While I still don’t have an answer to this question, I feel that I changed in the simple fact that I don’t feel like blindly living the same way I have been for as long as I can remember. I think that this project also helped me develop my social skills. The reason being is that my project required me and my partner to go out and interview homeless community members, something that I was initially uncomfortable about. Simply going out and talking to people helped me grow in my communication skills because every person was different and it required a different tactic each time in order to get them to open up. One person might need a quiet person who listened to their story and sympathized with them, another would need someone to ask questions and help them tell their experiences. I think this will be very important in the coming year as I will find myself in more situations that require finer touches of language. Overall, I learned so many different skills during this project it is hard to list them all, however, I can say that I believe I grew as a person, student, and as someone who wants to change our society for the better.