» By TRENT SINGER – tsinger@my.apsu.edu

A little more than 30 APSU students packed into room 312 of the MUC on Tuesday, Sept. 27, to listen to a panel of four people who had at least one thing in common: reaching out to the homeless here in Clarksville.

The panel consisted of two APSU staff members, Bessie Grimaldi and Katherine Flowers, and two local Clarksville community members, Tom Youngblood and Kenny York. Together, the panel answered questions regarding Clarksville’s homelessness situation, of which not many people are aware.

According to a 2009 study, a little more than half a million Americans are homeless. “The economy right now is having devastating effects on families,” Flowers, associate professor of Sociology, said.

In metropolitan areas, the issue has spiraled out of control, whereas cities like Clarksville experience a more subdued state of homelessness. “The homeless in Clarksville look like me and look like you,” York said, founder of Manna Café Ministries, an organization that works closely with people in the homeless community.

The panel discussed a variety of issues regarding homelessness and its socioeconomic impact on society. Among those issues was “the deserving vs. the undeserving.” Many people are inclined to give support to homeless people who show they are truly “deserving” of help, rather than those who show mental instability and are deemed “undeserving.”

“It’s not just about stereotypes, but also about value judgments,” Flowers said.

In Clarksville, homelessness has become an increasing problem among soldiers and families. “Mostly what I’ve seen are white males that have fallen on hard times,” Youngblood said, pastor of First Christian Church of Clarksville and active worker in the homeless community.

The need for food and water are a few of the necessities that can be given to help a homeless family, but there are other important needs as well. The panel discussed the need for footwear and medication as essential necessities to the homeless.

Although apathy seems to be the easy way out, the mission behind these organizations has reached the hearts and minds of many people. “I’ve been overwhelmed with people who want to volunteer,” said York. If you want to help those in need, get involved and voice your concern.

For more information on how to get involved and dedicate your time to help the homeless contact Alexandra Howard, assistant director for Service and Civic Engagement, at howarda@apsu.edu. TAS