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The Aquilian

    Gonzaga students take action to advocate for the homeless community

    Mrs. Murphys Social Justice in Action class holds up the over 350 signatures they collected. Photo from Eye Street Headlines.
    Mrs. Murphy’s Social Justice in Action class holds up the over 350 signatures they collected. Photo from Eye Street Headlines.

    When notice went out to the community that the homeless encampment at McPherson Square would be removed two months earlier than originally scheduled, a group of students took action to raise awareness. Spreading the news around the Gonzaga community, the students collected over 350 signatures and encouraged many to write advocacy letters to the mayor’s office in defense of the homeless community

    The subject of the issue stems from an order put out by the National Park Service in early February. The NPS order pushed forward the removal of nearly 70 people experiencing homelessness from April 12 to Feb. 15. This significant two-month change in schedule was planned to be executed without extending assistance programs or housing vouchers alongside it. 

    “Seeing such hostility taken against members of our community really didn’t sit easily with us,” said Aidan Friedman, senior.

    In response to the aggressive action by city officials, Ms. Katie Murphy’s social justice in action class devised a plan to advocate. Their plan consisted of creating petitions and student-written advocacy letters to send to the mayor’s office in order to demonstrate disapproval of the McPherson Square eviction.

    “Gonzaga is supposed to be a place that cares,” said Luca Rosa, senior. “So we wanted to show the city that someone actually does care about what is happening here.”

    Through their various tactics, the class of only nine senior students received over 350 signatures from Gonzaga students and faculty. Additionally, throughout their two days of advocacy, they had students create countless advocacy letters to be mailed alongside the petition. 

    “It was interesting to see how just setting up a table in the upper commons could be so effective at gaining students’ attention,” Friedman said. “Even if we couldn’t actually stop anything, people were at least becoming more aware of the greater issue.”

    Unfortunately, on Feb. 15, the NPS did go through with executing the eviction of the homeless community at McPherson Square. Forcing the relocation of all these people is just another example of the continued hostility toward people experiencing homelessness in the district. 

    “Next time, we’ll be more ready to take action sooner,” Friedman said. “Maybe then we will start to see more change.”

    Hopes are not depleted by this crew of young men looking to serve. In fact, their ambition to make a difference is higher than ever. As far as they are concerned, they are just getting started. 

    “We have some plans and ideas for the future,” Rosa said. “Maybe not in the same exact fashion, but we certainly want to live out the name of the class and take action.”

    These plans range from continuing their weekly service at the Father McKenna Center to promoting more environmentally friendly behavior in the cafeteria. The commitment to taking action toward social justice is at the heart of the Social Justice in Action curriculum. Their commitment to taking action demonstrates what it truly means to become men for others.

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    • C

      Carol CorganMar 24, 2023 at 11:03 am

      Good work, Liam. It’s too bad the NPS got rid of the McPherson Square encampment before DC could set everyone up with some form of housing. Thank God the weather wasn’t awful at the time.