Love for Lancaster faces homelessness head on

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    Lancaster Avenue is the target for TCU’s new group Love For Lancaster  to bring conversation and faith to the homeless.

    The group began informally last year  and became an organization with a purpose. Sophomore nursing major Laura Posluszny and sophomore business major Mike Smith decided to speak with the homeless after a meeting of Ignite, a non-denominational, student-led ministry on campus.

    Students participating in the group meet in front of the BLUU and drive together to Lancaster twice a week. They split into smaller co-ed groups to initiate conversation with the homeless.

    Sophomore nursing major Brianna Stark said she felt called to participate and was one of the leaders of new members.

    The experience was rewarding and had the power to change students, Stark said. 

    Love For Lancaster is pending approval from OrgSync but will be the only group categorized under “religious” and “service”.

    While the group is faith-based, students did not force their Christian beliefs on the people they helped, Stark said. 

    TCU alumnus Spencer Jackson said he thought the organization would change many students’ outlook on life. Students had to go outside TCU and experience this firsthand, Jackson said. 

    “Getting outside of your comfort zone changes you,” he said.

    This year, leaders in the group would be in charge of a specific time and day to accommodate students’ schedules, Jackson said. Stark and Jackson  said they wanted to make the group’s  presence shown every day.

    President of Love For Lancaster  and junior engineering major Monica Hennen said she hoped to hold fundraisers and bring in speakers to raise awareness about the subject.

    Hennen said she was wary the first time she visited Lancaster, but found the people she met respected her as a person.

    Christopher Anderson,  Emergency Services Lodge Attendant at the Salvation Army, lived on the streets for six months. Before being laid-off, Anderson remembered driving past homeless people with his children, pointing and laughing.

    However, once he was homeless, he had to go to the same places and interact with the same people he once laughed at.

    The Salvation Army hands out food three times a day, and clothes are often donated to the homeless, Anderson said. But one-on-one conversation and knowledge were what the homeless needed, he said. 

    “[Homelessness] can happen to anybody,” Anderson said.

    Anderson attended classes at Tarrant County College (TCC) through the Visions Unlimited program. TCC’s program worked with local homeless shelters to enroll participants in courses and offer admittance into the Work Study Program.

    Now that he was back on his feet, Anderson said he did not want to go back to the workforce just to make money. He planned on receiving a management degree from Paul Quinn College and his master’s in social work from the University of Texas at Arlington.

    Although some students worry about finances or upcoming tests, TCU offers many amenities and makes life comfortable for students, Jackson said.

    Students are fortunate to have food and shelter, Stark said. There are buffets, recreational facilities and clean spaces to sleep available on campus for people enrolled at TCU.

    “We have 106-flavor coke machines,” she said. “[Going to Lancaster] makes you realize how unimportant everything else is.”

    At the activities fair, 122 students signed up to learn about Love For Lancaster. Leaders reached students by email, Facebook, text message and word-of-mouth and eventually OrgSync, Jackson said. 

    Jackson also said he wanted to begin a regroup process where students would meet outside of Lancaster in order to build a greater community within the organization. 

    Stark said she hoped involvement would show students how rewarding Love For Lancaster can be for students and the homeless.

    Union Gospel Mission of Fort Worth, Day Resource Center and the Salvation Army Fort Worth Shelter are a few of the services provided on Lancaster Avenue.