Having empathy is not enough
November 15, 2007
This week on the UW-River Falls campus you may have noticed a cardboard village outside of Hathorn Hall. This city of buckram was constructed as part of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.
While this week-long project is done with the best intentions, and is a decent way to raise awareness, we feel that the effort put forth could be better spent to actually get something done to help with this pandemic situation. Sleeping in a cardboard box for a few nights may help individuals gain empathy for the homeless, but it doesn’t really do anything to alleviate the homeless situation. Students would be much better spent helping out at a soup kitchen or even simply donating food to a local food shelf.
Besides that, is sleeping in a box for a few nights really giving anyone any real insight to what it’s like to be homeless?
“The plight of those without a home can be both lonely and difficult,” according to the National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week Web site.
We feel that having a slumber party with your friends in a cardboard box doesn’t come close to matching up with how a homeless person probably feels day in and day out.
Even the advertisement for National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week on the UWRF Web site makes it sound like this is just another social event, with the awareness component as a side note.
“So, come sleep out, socialize, meet new people, and be a part of making our campus more aware,” reads the announcement on the UWRF schedule of events.
This description sounds more like a kegger than an empathy-raising event.
We want to make it clear we’re not trying to pick on the organizers or participants of this UWRF event; they obviously have excellent intentions, and many other campuses around the country do the exact same thing to raise awareness for the homeless. We just feel these efforts are misdirected. They should be writing lawmakers and politicians to get them to do something to help with this problem instead of simply gaining a sense of empathy. While awareness and empathy are great, in the end they really don’t do much to solve actual problems.