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Amanda Litz
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Notre Dame College Student Shares Personal Experiences of Serving Homeless

Members of the Notre Dame College community opened their hearts to the homeless on Valentine’s Day as part of the College’s Office of Campus Ministry Labre Project service partnership with John Carroll University. The Notre Dame students on this night were each making his or her first trip with the program, which is named for Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, the patron saint of homeless people. Here is how Amanda Litz, a junior communication major at Notre Dame, described her February 14 journey for the Notre Dame College Communications Office.

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Before we started out for the Labre Project, I asked what the other members in the Notre Dame group expected from the night, and one person said, “Everyone experiences Labre differently.”

That person was right.

Each student’s reflections varied throughout and after the evening. Feeling nervous, shy and even uncomfortable are just a few emotions we experienced prior to the journey ahead.

I was nervous at first, as I felt a little leery about interacting with homeless people. I especially did not know how they would react to us when we approached them.

Considering that night happened to be Valentine’s Day, one of the first things we did when we met the homeless was hand out Valentine treats and heartfelt letters to them, and their faces lit up with grace to receive them.

So before this trip, I may have had an idea of how these people without shelter would live, but as I experienced it, I learned just how they made themselves “at home.”

On our way to meet the homeless, we Notre Dame students assisted at the Labre Project’s Green Road Annex building where we prepared food, clothes and hygiene products to deliver to the people in need. We also introduced ourselves to the close to 20 John Carroll student participants who were dedicating their time to reuniting with the homeless or meeting them for the first time, too.

When one of the John Carroll students told us about the places where we would find the homeless, I was quite fascinated. I honestly thought I would see them on the streets, but that is not true in all cases. As we traveled to the east and west sides of Cleveland, we found some people on sidewalks but also others under a bridge, in the woods and even in the middle of grass fields, among other locations.

Even the objects and materials the homeless used for their means of shelter intrigued me. I saw some shelters not just with cardboard but with wood panels, plastic covers, cases of some sort and old blankets.

And some homeless people liked having all of us around them to talk to, while others did not want to be bothered or approached by more than two or three people─if any.

At the end of the journey, we stopped at a church to feed and clothe the homeless staying there with what food, clothes and hygiene products we had left.

Some of these homeless approached us with their life stories, while others asked how our day went and where we visited. Some of us asked them how their day was.

With each homeless person we visited in the different places, personalities differed. Some were funny and some were serious. Some were even well-educated. Some were willing to show us how they look and where they live, while some were not.

I was there, inside the church and their homes─though mostly outside in the cold and the snow─seeing the types of environments many homeless people live in and learning who they are.

Like me, I think some individuals have a stereotypical perception of the homeless. Sometimes people may think serving them is not a good idea as the homeless may expect those people to continue to provide service for them as often as need be. Or maybe since the homeless live on streets, people should not approach them, as they may not know if the homeless will try to harm them.

Everyone does have their own opinions, but one should think about actually participating in this community service project first─so judgments and stereotypes will be less said and actual personal experiences more shared.

Members of the Notre Dame community who are interested in spending an evening with the Labre Project, need to sign up early as spaces are limited. Contact Ted Steiner, director of campus ministry, at tsteiner@ndc.edu or 216.373.5387 for more information.