Anya Savvy, photographer
This is part of a three-part series on food and housing insecurity for Minneapolis College students.
One could sense the dedication and camaraderie between meeting attendees, advisor to Students Against Homelessness and Hunger [SAHH] Liz McLemore, vice-president of SAHH Mariah Cannon, and Andrea “Mother” Hill. SAHH President Jessica Furuli was out sick when I sat in on one of their meetings. The main topic of discussion was SAHH’s upcoming Open House event, Wednesday, October 30, 2019 from Noon to 4:00 p.m. to be held on the first floor of the Helland Center.
SAHH is an important resource here on campus for students dealing with food insecurity. “Food security is critical,” said Cannon. According to SAHH, their vision is to develop partnerships with “fellow students, faculty, staff and community members” to assist students with basic needs like food and housing to help them experience educational success.
During the meeting, Cannon said that SAHH served 240 snack packs and 221 sandwiches in September 2019. Those numbers are expected to increase during winter. SAHH would like to gain greater support to help meet students’ needs. “We need more students volunteering, to get involved in the group,” said McLemore.
SAHH also said they need more funds to carry out their vision. At the Open House, there will be food, informational resources, and a petition to support SAHH’s efforts to obtain $10,000 in funds from the Student Life Budget Committee [SLBC]. Cannon said that SAHH wants to use the money to purchase food, especially non-perishables, for Amy’s Food Pantry. They would also like to see SAHH create a work-study program to have students work at the food pantry.
For Cannon, there is much bureaucracy involved in keeping a club going. “It [the bureaucracy] can be disheartening,” said Cannon. “We need a different way to effectively engage students in this process.” McLemore said, “It [SAHH] gets treated as an organization [general nonprofit] and not as an organization accountable to students. There are certain things you have to do, but you can’t run a school like this.” According to Mother Hill, “The school is about the students, [but somehow] it always ends up being not about the student.”
Cannon is in their second year of studies at Minneapolis College, focusing on business management. Cannon says they’re 100 percent invested in SAHH, but it is “hard to do it all.” They were president during Spring of 2019 but stepped down to allow someone with greater experience in homelessness and hunger to serve as president. That person was Jessica Furuli.
When I interviewed Furuli, she was discombobulated because she had just found out 10 minutes before we met that she was named president of SAHH. Furuli currently lives in transitional housing. Before that, she resided in an Intensive Residential Treatment Service center.
Furuli talked more about her situation. “I was living with my partner in Chanhassen. We were together for three years and we had a house, which was not in my name. We shared a car, which was not in my name. For months there was this crazy tension and I’m like hey let’s talk about what’s going on. She always said, ‘Everything’s fine,’ but I knew that something was really wrong.” Furuli continued, “She came home from work one day and said, ‘I’m not in love with you anymore, you need to leave today’ and that was all of my security, my entire life. None of it was in my name, so I lost everything in that moment.” The breakup and losses were hard on Furuli, “I had a breakdown and tried to commit suicide.” Furuli ended up in a hospital. She said that while she was there, she had no idea where she was going to go. Even the social worker wasn’t much help in assisting her to find a place to stay. Furuli learned of IRTS (Intensive Residential Treatment Service) through another patient. IRTS had an opening for her and she stayed in the IRTS facility four months before moving into the transitional facility where she now resides.
According to Furuli, losing all that she lost was the greatest thing that happened to her. “It propelled me forward [and] put a fire in me to work on my mental health.”
Furuli is a first-year student currently studying women, sexuality, and gender. When she attends classes here on campus she misses out on meals served at her residence. At first, she only knew of snack packs served Tuesdays and Thursdays through Student Services, but later found out about SAHH serving snack packs Mondays and Wednesdays. She appreciates SAHH’s dedication to serving students “with respect, integrity, and dignity.” Utilizing Student Services, Furuli said that Student Services can sometimes come across as cold in their behavior toward students. She stated that Student Services do not get to know the students they serve. She recalled a time visiting Student Services and having to repeatedly fill out new registration forms in the same semester to receive services. SAHH only requires students to write their name and ID number to pick up groceries and snack packs.
Cannon said that in the past, there has been some pushback against SAHH from Student Services but they will not allow past trauma to interfere with a possible partnership between SAHH and Student Services to help meet the needs of students. “I believe in healing,” said Cannon.
There is a chance that SAHH may not be able to serve sandwiches come January 2020 because Groveland Food Shelf may not be making sandwiches for them. Although, SAHH received a monetary award this month from First Unitarian Church to help with continuing to fund snack packs given to Minneapolis College students, they may not be able to help with sandwiches. According to First Unitarian Society’s 2018-2019 Annual Report, in 2018, they made and delivered about 2300 sandwiches and snack bags to hungry Minneapolis College students, but First Unitarian needs more volunteers to help maintain their partnership with Minneapolis College.
Right now, SAHH is focused on helping students with food insecurity, but they do call themselves Students Against Homelessness and Hunger. What about the homelessness part? Both Cannon and Furuli say they need more people. SAHH desires more resources both in money and student volunteers to more fully carry out their vision to assist students. Cannon said that a significant overage exists in the SLBC budget and that some of that money could be used to assist students’ housing needs.
SAHH serves snack packs, sandwiches and groceries to students through Amy’s Student Food Depot, more commonly called Amy’s Food Pantry, located on the first floor of the Helland Center. Amy’s Food Pantry was named after one of the founding members of SAHH, Amy Bartholomew, who passed away in 2015.
Anya Savvy is a pen name for a Minneapolis College student who works as a reporter for City College News. To contact Anya, please email them at [email protected]