search articles: 

   from the issue of April 19, 2007

  Campaign to educate community and campus on chronic homeless

Offering change


A new educational campaign is aimed at breaking the cycle for the chronic homeless.

CAMPAIGN - The Student Affairs/Downtown Lincoln Association homeless campaign includes this promotional piece, which directs people to give donations to...
CAMPAIGN - The Student Affairs/Downtown Lincoln Association homeless campaign includes this promotional piece, which directs people to give donations to Lincoln agencies that help the homeless rather than give loose change to panhandlers. Courtesy image.

A joint program of the Downtown Lincoln Association and UNL Student Affairs, the public awareness project is designed to inform individuals the best ways to help individuals often called panhandlers. The program leads with the educational message and theme, "help give the chronic homeless the change they really need."

"One of the most important messages in the campaign is awareness of the difference between chronic homeless and crisis homeless," said Todd Ogden, a senior advertising and political science major from Lincoln who worked on the project. "The chronic homeless are in a rut, and by giving them money, it hurts the situation even more. Our message is to ask people to refrain from giving money to panhandlers and instead, suggest a donation to one of the agencies who can help them."

Rather than giving donations directly to the homeless, the informational messages in the campaign support giving to Lincoln organizations that directly help the homeless. Those organizations are the Peoples City Mission, Matt Talbot Kitchen, Cornhusker Place, The Gathering Place, and Lincoln/Lancaster County Homeless Coalition.

Posters, fliers, brochures and other traditional elements of a promotional or communications campaign, as well as a few "guerrilla marketing" pieces are included in the campaign that evolved from the class project. The campaign pieces will began showing up downtown and at UNL April 18.

Ogden said class research and input from the agencies indicates that spare change or money given to street people is often spent on addictive behaviors, furthering the homelessness cycle. Many of Lincoln's chronically homeless individuals congregate on popular downtown Lincoln corners: 13th and P, 14th and P and 14th and O, as well as near the Nebraska Union at 13th and R or near residence halls.

"I've given people money before because I had no clue. I just wanted to help," Ogden said. The project team's research also highlighted that university students are often targeted by panhandlers. The university attempts to educate students new to Lincoln about panhandling behavior and student safety, and recently launched a task force to communicate and respond to concerns about homelessness, as well as to initiate an educational campaign, said Juan Franco, vice chancellor for Student Affairs.

"As positively and proactively as possible, our intent is to first be compassionate to our homeless neighbors and to help them find and get the help they need in getting off the streets and finding a safer and more comfortable life," Franco said. "Our messages are hope-filled and by students doing their part, and working with this campaign, we feel we can be part of the best solution."

Posters with photographs including messages written on cardboard, "I didn't need your money, I just needed a change," are part of the communication campaign, as well as table-top signs affixed to donation boxes, brochures, handouts and other downtown and campus signage. The guerrilla marketing piece are the "shadow people" cutouts - life-size board silhouettes of a human figure holding the cardboard sign. The silhouettes will appear on street corners, near buildings, on benches or in the Nebraska Union reminding people of the campaign.

"The 'shadows' are a way to bring notice to the campaign," Ogden said. "We want people to stop and look, as in 'this is where a panhandler used to be and I'm not here anymore because you've helped me'."

Three students who worked on the fall 2006 campaign (for an advanced communication graphics class) continued to work on the project this spring for DLA: Ogden, Seth Pollard and Kayla Prochaska. Other students involved in the class taught by UNL graphic artist Marcelo Plioplis were Cassie Behle, Sam Larson, Joe Mitchell and Mike Yates.

"It has been a very positive experience working with the students, UNL, LPD and the Downtown Lincoln Association on this complicated issue," said Susanne Blue, executive director of Matt Talbot Kitchen and Outreach, part of the Lincoln/Lancaster Homeless Coalition. "Bringing people together from the different areas of the community and including agencies involved with the Homeless Coalition lends credibility to the project and inspires hope that our collective efforts do make a difference. It is important to support the many local agencies that are serving the homeless population and to encourage projects like this, led by compassionate students, who are the future of our community."

The students also have benefited from their work on the project.

"Our Advertising program gets students working with real world clients as much as possible," said Amy Struthers, assistant advertising professor at UNL. "We love seeing our Ad students' work used to help out our community."

Proactive education about its intent is important, the collaborators said.

"Our goal is that our project is seen as sensitive, caring and hopeful," said Polly McMullen, president of Downtown Lincoln Association.



Offering change
Childcare provider list available
Family provides capstone gift for multicultural center
Parking prices are on the rise
There is no easy way out
Fraternity leaders announce new fire-response initiative
NU Athletics earns NCAA certification
Undergraduate Research Fair