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How to help Georgia State help its community

In 2010, Georgia State purchased the Wyndham Garden Hotel and Baymont Inn and Suites. I don’t know the amounts involved, but something tells me Georgia State didn’t quite break the bank. The hospitality industry in Atlanta wasn’t doing too hot. In fact, businesses all over the country weren’t doing too hot. In the wake of one of the worst recessions in American history, Atlanta’s unemployment rate wavered between 12 and 13 percent.

High unemployment is a fertile foundation for homelessness and hunger and any Georgia State student can attest to the problem. Yet, it is important to distinguish between dirty people hanging out on the street and homeless people. Most students who encounter a request for money walking through campus don’t know anything about the person asking them — save for their seemingly insufficient funds.

When it comes to homelessness, there seems to be two schools of thought: the “it’s their fault” idea and the “we have to help them” idea. Regardless of how many students oblige people who request money, I would guess it’s a casual decision. No one leaves home with the intention of giving money to whoever asks. It’s an impromptu feel-good move and hopefully it yields good results for both parties.

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It’s important to ask: How important is it to solve the problem of homelessness or at least diminish it? That depends on values. Even if economic prosperity outweighs ethics, there’s a clear benefit to absorbing thousands of people into the workforce. It’s complicated because the homeless need more than a home.

Abraham Maslow, a 20th century psychologist, created a hierarchy of needs to prioritize human necessities.

Physiological needs are the pyramid’s foundation. If the elements challenge the processes of the human body, shelter is very much a physiological need. But that’s only the pyramid’s foundation. Safety is the next necessity — this includes, among other needs, financial security.

We’ve all heard this one: Feed a man a fish, he eats for a day — teach a man to fish, he eats every day. Homelessness and food insufficiency are closely related and often overlap. Maybe I only speak for myself, but when

I am asked for money on campus, the common reason people justify their request is that they need food. Giving them food helps until they’re hungry again. Five dollars is just one degree of separation from hunger. More money helps, but many people on the street wouldn’t know what to do with loads of cash, depending on the amount.

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If Georgia State actually wants to help the locally helpless, there are ways to do that. One way is to use some housing money to help bring people off of the street and into the workforce. According to The College Board, 17 percent of undergraduates live in University Housing. For such a small number, Georgia State has exhausted an odd amount of money and effort on housing. The school could also partner with some non-profits, such as the Atlanta Community Food Bank, to do meaningful philanthropic work.

So what can students do about this? The Opportunity Development and Diversity Education Planning Office is located at 1 Park Place South, Suite 527. This office is responsible for fostering relationships connections to other organizations for the improvement of Georgia State’s community resources and of Atlanta as a whole. Anyone can stop by during the week between 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.

If enough students voice their discontent about the school’s budget allocation, the administration would be reckless to ignore their voices.

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