As a student participating in HECUA—Higher Education Consortium of Urban Affairs -- I have the opportunity this semester to take a social justice class alongside an internship at Beacon with a focus on social change.
My class is called Inequality in America. I am learning about theories that have increased my understanding of the roots, dynamics, and reproduction of economic, political, and social inequality and poverty. I will also be studying policies and strategies for social actions that will eliminate the inequality gap that exists between the rich and the poor.
Through hearing first-hand stories of individuals who have experienced homelessness, participating in poverty simulations, reading multiple perspectives and insights around causes and solutions to this issue, and integrating the work I am doing at Beacon to the class material, I look forward to strengthening my knowledge about these issues and hopefully find a way that I personally can work to make change.
It’s still the beginning of the semester, but I’ve already been able to relate what I am learning in the classroom to my experiences at Beacon. Many class discussions have focused on the barriers to stability that people experiencing homelessness face. One is simply access to affordable and supportive housing. This is a solution that Beacon is committed to working towards. Dedication to eliminate the inequality gap and homelessness in society takes a lot more than informing a few. We need to work towards a community-wide social movement where people understand the horrible effects of homelessness and poverty and the systems that exist that keep families and children from climbing the social ladder.
My project at Beacon is to create and sustain this community-wide support and social action for change. I am working in Beacon’s advocacy department to rally 30 interfaith congregations and 3,000 Beacon Citizens behind a state legislative proposal that would provide at least $100 million to build and rehab housing for our communities’ lowest-income members. I will be helping to gather support, empower individuals, and raise awareness within these communities and encourage them to become connected to this issue in a way that is meaningful to them.
I am very excited to be a part of this advocacy campaign and to continually be integrating and connecting my classroom experience to my experience interning at Beacon.
- Julie Ann Orenstein