STEP hosts week of events to educate about poverty

Imagine being born into poverty, roaming the streets, rummaging through garbage pails searching for scraps of food – a half-eaten apple, pizza crusts, an hourglass shaped Capri Sun. Imagine sleeping near an overpass with the buzz of traffic interrupting an already shaky sleep, moving from one location to another so as not to catch the attention of wary passerby. Imagine trying to live a life without hope for a better tomorrow.

Students Together Ending Poverty [STEP] is an organization whose mission is to communicate this very image. Established five years ago and still developing, STEP’s goal is to increase awareness of domestic and foreign policy issues on poverty.

Although it is a local organization, STEP’s mission is global in perspective: to provide students a deeper look into the lives of the less fortunate and to invoke a collective human spirit of understanding and giving.

This week, Feb. 9 – 13, STEP is hosting its annual Hunger and Homelessness Week. The purpose of the event is to encourage students to give back to the community and increase awareness about the lives of homeless people. STEP is hosting activities all this week.

Students can help build a tent village to kick off the week or spend the night on the Rock. They can also donate a meal from their UM meal plans for Skip-A-Meal day by signing up at Chartwells.

In conjunction with national organizations such as Jobs for Justice, Bread for the World and APPLICA (a policy-making organization on legislative issues of poverty such as the living-wage campaign), STEP is growing in its association as the college constituent for such groups.

“We would like to see STEP not as being related to homelessness entirely, but to expand it to more comprehensive issues surrounding poverty,” Jennifer Earnest, STEP president, said.

STEP is involved in many community service projects, including bimonthly work at Touching Miami with Love, a non-profit organization that has three housing divisions, and works with AIDS counseling, parent workshops and after-school tutoring sessions for impoverished children. STEP also visits the Camillus House, a center for women, to increase its activity in Miami. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Miami is the poorest large city with the widest wealth disparity.

STEP will be featuring many activities throughout the week to raise awareness on these issues. All students are invited to join in Hunger and Homelessness Week to serve as the voice for those unheard.

Sandwich boards will be displayed around campus with quick facts and tidbits about worldwide poverty. Upcoming STEP activities include Hoops for Hunger and a clothing/food collection drive.

For more information about STEP and Hunger and Homelessness Week please contact Neha Joshi at 786-877-2387, Jennifer Earnest at 904-608-5756 or Azuree Ashby, Volunteer Services Center Coordinator. Email STEP at

Shelly Garg can be contacted at