Singer and songwriter Jewel hosted the Fannie Mae Foundation Help the Homeless Walkathon Saturday on the National Mall, which thousands of walkers and more than 40 GW students attended.
Jewel spoke before the walk about her experiences with homelessness. She said her perspective on life changed instantaneously in her late teens when she lost her job and lived in a car for a year.
In an interview with The Hatchet, Jewel said she was hosting the walkathon to offer hope to people in similar situations.
“Every day gave me hope to live on. People can help and want to help, and it is an empowering feeling,” she said. “Any means of maintaining hope and self-pride allows for opportunity rather than depletion.
“And it is for this reason that it is important that people take even the smallest measures to assist,” she added.
The walkathon’s goal was to raise awareness and funds for preventing and ultimately eliminating homelessness. The event ends National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week, which is the second week in November.
The funds raised from the Walkathon – along with those raised from other events including a 5k run – directly support 180 D.C.-area organizations which combat homelessness. Last year, over $7.8 million was raised, and the Fannie Mae Foundation hopes to accumulate as much money, if not more this year.
“Today we have a fabulous turnout and wonderful weather, encouraging a united metropolitan area, dedicated to ending and preventing homelessness,” said Lessie Powell-Evans, spokesperson for the Fannie Mae Foundation.
In addition to raising funds, Powell-Evans said another goal was raising awareness of this social problem. She said that contrary to common knowledge, homelessness affects families and children.
“It is a lot more than single men living on the street with crates and suitcases,” she said.
Students said the issue of homelessness is important to them because it’s something they see every day around the campus and in surrounding areas. On average, more than 12,000 people in the Washington area are homeless, which includes those staying in shelters or living in transitional housing.
“Homelessness is something we see everyday,” said junior Jenn George. “Every time I see someone on the street, I wish I could make a difference, and it is events like the walkathon that can really make a difference.”
GW student organizations met in several locations around campus as early as 7 a.m. to organize and walk to the event. One of the groups represented was Circle K, whose members congregated at Kogan Plaza and departed at 7:30 a.m.
“The homeless walk is a core event because homelessness is prevalent on campus,” said Circle K President Pisei Chea. “And it is important that college students not only be aware, but strive to make a difference.”
Circle K will donate the $300 they raised through registration fees to a dinner program for homeless women and children. They have worked on other projects with the program because it does not turn people away.
The GW Neighbors project organized the group meeting at Kogan before walking to the event and organized events for Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week at GW.
Junior Greg Sans, a Neighbors Project member, said that although he was happy with the strong GW participation overall, he wished more people met at Kogan and walked together.
“It’s great that so many people were interested in supporting the cause, but (the Neighbors project) would have preferred to see a more unified effort,” he said.
The Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week began Monday with a poetry event titled “Food For Thought,” at Mount Vernon. The event included poetry readings by homeless individuals from Miriam’s Kitchen, a breakfast program operated out of a Foggy Bottom church, and members of Think Tank Revolution, a student performing arts group.
A Hunger Banquet Wednesday evening in the Marvin Center and a week-long food drive were also part of the week. The banquet was a dramatization of global hunger where participants were randomly given the average portions for a country.