“It was a barrier coming from the streets,” said DeMarco Staggers, a student at MCTC, “I burned a lot of bridges, I didn’t have too many family or friends who were willing to help me out- they didn’t trust me anymore. Some nights I would just sleep outside in the plaza. We had a camp right out here of the homeless students.”
He recalled what first got him involved in Students Against Hunger and Homelessness several years ago.
It was 10:30 and he was getting shuffled out of the school alongside the congregation of students relieved and excited to head home.
“Don’t you have a life outside of school? Do you have somewhere to go?” Amy said. She was used to seeing him around until the moment the school was being locked up.
“You know, you know, I’mma be all right, I’m cool, you know, I’m a warrior,” he said. He later claimed “That’s what I’d always say, I’d just say ‘I’m a warrior'”
“Do you have somewhere to GO?” Amy persisted
“Man, you know, I’m D Pro, man, everybody knows me”
“Come on.” Amy Bartholomew brought Demarco home with her that night. She gave him a warm place to sleep, bought him a bag of groceries and introduced him to her son that evening. He said he wasn’t used to that, a staff member making sure he would be somewhere safe when he left the school.
The next day, she introduced him to Mary Ann Prado, the first advisor for Students Against Hunger and Homelessness. He recalled the scene of meeting her well before SAHH was started.
“Look, we need to help you get a place to stay,” Prado said in her office, one hand on the keyboard and the other one flipping through papers.
Getting SAHH started was a difficult undertaking. Between the shuffling between advisors after Prado’s departure, a transient community of students trying to find their way through school and homelessness at a 2-year college, disorganization and difficulties with MCTC’s administration, it took a dedicated core of individuals to bring their vision to light.
DeMarco continued on, describing the pains of finding a place to lay his head at night and having to watch his back when sleeping in shelters during the winter months.
“One semester I paid for a hotel room with my whole student loan. [Another semester] I withdrew $4,500 to give to a landlord, then I got robbed before I even made it to the landlord.”
“Those kinds of things left me in a very vulnerable situation where I didn’t have nowhere to go. I was trying to do something, something I call my ‘positive role.’ I was trying to create new friends, create a new positive environment, so it left me vulnerable.”
Since then, Staggers has been a big part in bringing visibility to the resources offered by SAHH and MCTC and is currently working on a mix tape and a documentary to give a look into his life and his vision.
Clay Jones, a criminal justice major and returning member to SAHH, says that he’s just trying to keep Amy Bartholomew’s legacy alive.
For those who are homeless or on the verge of being homeless, Jones says that “the most important thing [is] getting the right resources, connections to housing or clothes.” stating that he has come close to homelessness in his past but reached out and found groups like SAHH and other community partners hoping to help those who need it.
Staggers said the most important thing for the people offering these resources is to help without judgment, and that the campus resources are available to all students, regardless of their living situation.
SAHH’s mission is as follows: “Our mission is to develop a collaborative partnership with fellow students, faculty, staff, and community members in providing advocacy, support and connection that will assist students with the resources to meet basic needs and stay in school.”
The Student Support Center in T.2300 is a place for students, highly mobile or otherwise in need of help, offered by the school that helps with housing options and referrals, emergency finance resources and crisis counseling. The school also offers a parent center for students with children at T.1000 or reachable by phone at 612-659-6655.
SAHH, the student-run group, offers food to any students from Amy’s Student Food Depot, a window on the first floor of the Helland Center near the multipurpose room. The hours for snack packs are Monday 11:30 to 2:30 and Wednesday 11:30 to 1:30, groceries are passed out Thursdays 1:00 to 3:00, but the window is open at many other times with people available to answer questions. They have many other current initiatives and ambitions and can be found on Facebook or reached at 612-659-6797.
SAHH accepts donations through a lot of non-profit organizations, including St. Mark’s church, the Basilica, Salvation Army, Second Harvest, and Mobile Loaves and Fishes.