PSU Abington Alternative Spring Break

Today is Monday , we have been home since Saturday afternoon. I wasn’t sure how being home would feel , we were in our own little bubble in DC. I got home , saw my family and felt okay. It took a few hours to bounce back from the emotional roller coaster that this past week was on us . It was surprising to me how acclimated  i became to having 10 other people surrounding me 24/7. I was back in my regular life , and it felt odd to me.

   This past week taught me a lot about understanding. I learned about those in the world who are homeless and learned about myself in the process. I always knew that homelessness existed , however it was always something i heard but never saw. The first experience I had was very basic. The group and I had just arrived in DC and we simply walked around DC. That is when we got our first insight into the world of the homeless. We met with Jesse Smith,a member of the Speakers Bureau for the National Coalition for the Homeless and he is also a formerly homeless individual. We walked around some of the small parks in the metropolitan area of DC and immediately saw how much of an issue homelessness has become. It clearly became more evident throughout the week, the impact this issue has had on DC.

   I can definitely say that this week , this experience has changed my life for the better. My attitude and views on life and the way I approach it has been positively affected. I take everything in life with an open mind , even more than i ever have before, never taking anything at face value. I’ve made a promise to myself , after everything , that we as a group have been through, to be more open with people. The stories we have heard , the openness of everyone we have met has inspired me to be more open and not close myself off from everyone.

   I just want to say thank you to the NCH , AMIZADE , Penn State , Shalom Place, Georgetown Ministries and The D.C. Kitchen . Lastly, to my group, I want to thank you for making this experience so amazing . John , Josh, Nina , Melissa, YooShee , Yiran, Moose, Kup, Chris and Maranda , you guys rock and I couldn’t have imagined ever going through this without any of you.

Hey it's Maranda
Today we came home, back to our own communities and families and brought with us an experience that will change the way we perceive the world to be, for the rest of our live's.
When we arrived, a week ago, in Washington D.C the process began slow, and I wondered If I had signed up for the right program. As the hours progressed (I say hours because it didn't take much time to begin to feel the weight of the issue approaching) through out the day I began to emotionally, mentally, and physically become attached to this topic and it's awareness. As I looked at my team members, friends, roommates, and support system I began to similar changes in them as well.
We heard several different stories that led up to the individuals homelessness, each of them touching me in a different way. But one story weighed heavier then the others.
Wednesday we went to the National Coalition for the Homeless and met a man and a women who spoke of their own personal journey, they both extremely differed from the other. The man was Steve aka Big Steve. Big Steve was 50 years old with 40 years of addiction under his belt. He was the product of a single mother household and one older sister in the ghetto. He began sipping left over beers and such when he was 10 years old and realized the alcohol temporarily numbed the pain. Soon he advanced to weed and pills, he graduated high school and began a career with the postal service. Soon the influence of the other older post workers to him and his addiction expanded to crack. He went on to say that after he had lost that job he went into riding ATV's across the country and that no matter where he stopped along the way he had a drug dealer available to satisfy his needs. By the end of his several job streak he found him self on a bench with all his possessions in Washington DC He told us the first thing he thought was "I want my mommy," however, several years earlier his addiction took a destructive toll on his relationships. He said he had lived there on that bench for the next year or so and one night came to the conclusion that if there was a God he would send him a sign to push him further (at that time Steve was ready to give up) he hadn't seen a sign so asked God to just take his life instead. That night a man came and saved Steve. He is now three years clean and tells his story with such power that it touches you strongly.
His story was just one of the many we heard this week, but his story hit more home then anything.Addiction sadly is a very common disease and effects more families then we can count.
Thursday night the whole group went to the DC Central Kitchen and helped prepare food. We worked mostly on Broccoli. While one of my female team members and I where chopping broccoli our coordinator asked if we would like to help take food up stairs to the women's shelter. We said yes. When we got up stairs the women swarmed in so fast. And began arguing over the food. (There was more then enough food) As a result some food had been spilt as a result. On our way out I realized the rooms on the side. It was an open space with 20+ bunk beds in each room leaving no room for storage. When my team member and I arrived back in the kitchen we just looked at each other and hugged. It was extremely over whelming, nothing like what I was expecting.
By friday I realized I had signed up for the right program and then some. I learned a lot about myself, others, homelessness, made relationships and experienced an epidemic that is affecting millions around the world.
I'll be back again!
Check out our slideshow!

1st day.BH


Brittany Holloway here. So we had our first taste of what this week is all about today. When I signed up for this trip, I knew that it was about helping people , however I hadn’t anticipated the emotional impact it was going to have. We walked around some of the parks and met a few people and heard their stories . I didn’t feel comfortable talking on my own with them yet , which made me extremely happy to have my group with me. I am quite proud of all of us. We were out into a different environment and we were there for each other. I am glad to have this group behind me and I am behind them.We had the pleasure of meeting a gentleman named Jesse Smith. Jesse is a formally homeless individual who has now become a speaker for the National Coalition for the Homeless. He spoke to us about his story and about the journey he has been on in his life. This was the first time I really became exposed to the world of homelessness. Although Jesse is no longer homeless , his personal recounts of living on the street and in shelters , and the emotional impacts that being discriminated against does to a person, really hit me. 

           Ive decided to take this experience day by day. I made the choice to not look ahead to the next day , or stay in the previous day. As each day passes , its like a new, fresh journey. I don’t anticipate what will happen in the coming days and and I don’t dwell on whats has or hasn’t happened in the previous day. I’m definitely looking forward to the experiences and the lessons and information that will be learned from them.

Talk to you soon

Brittany Holloway

Street Trash

   It’s Wednesday and my emotions towards homelessness are in a swirl of confusion. There are so many views to take into account, so many options on how to help.


        We started today of by going down to DC Central Kitchen. DC Central Kitchen distributes an upwards of 4,500 meals to homeless shelters across the DC area. When we got there we were working with two other groups. One of which was from New York and the other Michigan. It really shows how DC’s homeless population has reached the world. Back in the kitchen was the most organized assembly line I have ever witnessed. Around 50 volunteers being led by formerly homeless people making food for so many. I, with all my natural cooking abilities, was placed in the dish room… It was my job to run everything back after the two other Johns I was working with were done cleaning them. I was the only one who got a chance to be able to see everything that happened in the kitchen, and what I saw in that kitchen was teamwork and unity for a common cause. The beauty in that itself was just one of the more beautiful things I have ever witnessed.


     Directly after the DC Central Kitchen we went to 13th and G street to an organization called Street Sense. Street Sense is a newspaper that is written by the homeless with all the profits going directly to the homeless.  Each of us were given 10 papers to go on the street and distribute with all of the profits going to our sponsor David. Out selling on the streets people treat you differently. They treat you as if you were a homeless person yourself. They avoid eye contact, run away, say no before you can even say hi. My experience for the day was a fine looking middle age man who quite literally ran away from me. With that said when you do initiate conversation with them, the excuses that people come up with to avoid giving you $1 are mind blowing. People claim that they don’t have 1 dollar as I watch them put it in their wallets. Chris shared a moment where someone said to him, “F@#K the homeless!” The nerve to say such a thing about another human being is inhuman.The sad irony of today is that we made more money because we were from Penn State than we did because we were helping the homeless.

No one is safe from homelessness, it can effect anyone at anytime. All it takes is one bad choice or a stroke of bad luck. So please be mindful, when you see someone collecting for a cause don’t immediately dismiss them as someone crazy, drug addict, alcoholic or helping a bad cause. Treat them as you would want to be treated because you never know, one day that might be you asking for help and being dismissed as trash.

By: Moose Lyons

Three Days Down

This is Chris again.We currently are having some minor difficulties getting the videos up for the blog, but I’m working on the kinks for that issue.

We now have three days behind us on our journey through our Nation’s Capitol finding various ways to help the homeless people not only here in DC, but also to bring the skills we learn back home and help the homeless people back in Philly. I never thought I would have ten more family members only after three days, but we function just like a well organized, at times, family. Anyways, we started our day off with a trip to the Holocaust Museum and that is always a downer in the day; it’s impossible to take everything in through the exhibit and not get hit deep. After the Holocaust museum, we ate a quick ‘brown bag’ lunch and proceeded to the Georgetown Ministry Center to prepare some sandwiches and drop off our donations that we collected on campus. Then we proceeded to take the sandwiches and some socks and walked around DC giving them out to the homeless people that we saw on our way to the National Coalition for the Homeless. We unfortunately didn’t run into very many homeless people in this, for a good reason; a soup kitchen not far away started to also serve dinners to mass quantities of homeless people, so we didn’t have many people on the streets that we could actually feed. So then we went to the National Coalition for the Homeless where we heard from their executive director and two speakers that were formerly homeless, including the legendary Steve Thomas that delivers a really deep story on how his life resulted in him becoming homeless and his rebirth (also feel free to add him on facebook to learn more). After that we went home for the night and are currently waiting on dinner to be cooked.

As you can tell, we had a very busy day.

Talk to you soon,

Chris McLaughlin


Day 2 The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain or in DC it falls mainly on the students. Today has been quite an experience and adventure. The day started off with a delicious breakfast and the students decided that they wanted to have a dance party. After spending hours practicing their slamming dance moves we decided to head into town and see some national monuments. We were able to ride the metro and meet some interesting individuals along the way but taking in the experience. We are absorbing as much as we can from the people and the history of DC.

Tonight we had the pleasure of making a pasta dinner for a group of homeless men that are staying in the shelter below us. They shared their incredible stories regarding their journey and what their aspirations for the future were. As we sat there it was a mood of laughter and joy as we connected on levels beyond their situation. We discussed Penn State, college in general, music, movies, life, love, joys, sadness, and so much more. I had an opportunity to chat with an older man who was around during the civil rights movement and his involvement with the Black Panthers. He gave me insight about the on-going fight for social justice.

Many homeless are incredibly up to date with what is going on in politics, international news, and public policy. He said one thing that resonated with me more than anything based on that topic. He said, “Young people have to remember that we must sustain what we have obtained before we lose all that we’ve fought for.”

What an incredibly powerful statement. In order to retain we must sustain. I will never forget those words. The fight for justice is on-going and we will always need to stand up for the rights for others. If we sit idly by then we will commit the same mistakes that we have in the past. We must stand up and be united in order to battle homelessness. We must stick out our hand and extend it in friendship and understanding. People are people. Homeless people ARE people. They have every right that you and I have as more fortunate people. Their homelessness could be a product of their environment, addiction, divorce, loss of income, loss of job, and any one of us can be homeless based upon a bad decision or other factors. The homeless are educators, wives, mothers, daughters, son, father, uncles, parents, etc. We must remember that and tap into our very soul to try to create a bridge of understanding instead of quickly judging.

Let me leave you with this thought. Next time you see someone who is homeless who is asking for money or food, please take a moment before you pass them by and stand in their shoes. Please try to understand their story before you decide that their story is not unworthy to your ears. Look deep within yourself and if you are unable to offer money; offer words of praise, humility, understanding, and love. Sometimes a smile and hello is all someone needs to bring them an abundance of emotional stability and sanity.

Until next time,

John Nguyen

One Day Down

This is Chris, one of the student leaders on our trip. We have already dealt with technical difficulties with the internet, but now we have a smooth system thanks to Josh. In just one day we already have come together much like a family and work together really well. In our first day here we got to walk around DC and interact with the homeless population in the parks and offered small snacks to anyone that asked. Most of us in the groups were a bit shy to initiate the conversations, but we have to just remember that we are simply talking to another person and by the end of the night that seemed to be what we all learned. The homeless people are people just like the rest of us and some members of our group were shocked by how intelligent these individuals are; many of the homeless people we interacted with have college degrees and are extremely intelligent. We have a very eager group to learn more and to do more. I am extremely excited to see what the week brings.

                                              Talk to you soon,

                                              Chris McLaughlin

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You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you. - John Wooden