The Student-Run Emergency Housing Unit, more commonly known as SREHUP, held a phone bank on Tuesday and Wednesday in Shane Lounge to protest a budget cut proposed by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett that eliminates some of the state’s funding for welfare and education programs.
SREHUP is an organization run by university students in the Philadelphia area whose mission is to bring young people together “with the most marginalized members of society — people experiencing homelessness,” according to their website. The organization runs three different shelters in the city, and raises funds to cover a large part of the shelters’ expenses. Two of the shelters are only for men, and the other one serves the LGBTQ community. SREHUP has chapters in Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, Villanova University and Swarthmore College. The students also work as volunteers in the shelters, often going to cook and serve dinners, and spend time with the shelters’ guests.
“The first part is about setting up the dinner, which is usually donated by an outside group. Then the men show up at around 7 and dinner is served. We sit down and talk with them … Then we either play games, or watch a movie” member Alison Koziol ’15 said.
Governor Tom Corbett’s budget cuts could potentially eliminate the $300 million General Assistance (GA) program, one that funds approximately 60,000 Pennsylvanians living in poverty, who are also often temporarily disabled or sick, survivors of domestic violence or caring for an elderly parent. They could also affect some of SREHUP’s major partners, like Project HOME. The partners most often help by providing volunteering training sessions and supervisors, according to Swarthmore branch president Dan Cho ’13.
“The proposal attacks the most vulnerable sectors of the population by slashing programs for the homeless and public schools serving low income youth,” according to an e-mail sent out to Swarthmore’s SREHUP branch by members Lily Austin ’15 and Lauren Lee ’13. According to the Coalition Against Hunger, the cuts will very likely continue to “send the poor to already overwhelmed churches, shelters, and community agencies struggling to meet growing demands.”
“Considering our involvement in helping maintain those shelters, in light of the news that there will be budget cuts that will probably affect the people that we work with, we were interested in bringing awareness to the issue,” Cho said. “We wanted to take not just a volunteering approach to [the issue], but an advocacy one too.” SREHUP member Vija Lietuvninkas ’14 agrees that their intent is to protect the people that the group works with every week.
“We did the call-in to support the homeless community. There’s no direct effect on the shelters, but there might be a direct effect on the people who attend the shelters, because some of them are part of the General Assistance program. It’s all interconnected,” Lietuvninkas said. “The reason behind the call-ins is to stop [the budget cut proposal from being passed] and to also raise awareness among the people that participate in the call-in.” The other universities that form part of the group are not holding phone banks. At least not yet. “We are encouraging the other schools to do this too,” Cho said. “But we’re the only school to have done the phone bank as of right now.”
Approximately 100 students called the governor’s office to urge him not to cut the General Assistance program between Tuesday and Wednesday.