Penn College human services students focus on plight of the homeless

Human services students at Pennsylvania College of Technology are inviting the community to join them in sleeping on the streets in a cardboard “box city” on Friday, Nov. 1, in downtown Williamsport.

Starting at 5 p.m., students enrolled in Sociology 410 (Service Learning in Sociology) will gather in front of the Lycoming County Courthouse at West Third and Pine streets. The students will create a temporary “city” of cardboard boxes to symbolize the challenges of homelessness. Visitors are welcome to make a donation and get a box of their own to decorate and add to the “city.” Donations of canned goods, toiletries and gently used clothing will be accepted at the event and turned over to Family Promise of Lycoming County Inc. to assist clients through the winter season.

The event will feature live music and food. The students plan to stay at the location until morning.

The overnight gathering is just one facet of a multilayered campaign created by the students to educate the public about the homeless population in Williamsport and provide assistance to that population.

Partnering with Family Promise, a nationally based organization dedicated to helping homeless families, the Penn College students are raising supplies, money and awareness using social media, online fundraising and events on campus and in the community.

The class participated in the South Williamsport Mummers’ Parade on Oct. 19, distributing information to parade viewers. The students have also been conducting supply drives on Mondays and Wednesdays on campus, gathering donations for Family Promise.

Via the website, the class is also collecting monetary donations at Twenty-five percent of the fundraising goal of $2,000 has been attained. Donations as small as $1 are accepted.

“From this service learning project, we’ve learned to be team players and come together as a class to make a difference,” said Gretchen T. Chambers, a senior from St. Peters in the applied human services bachelor-degree major. “We all feel that providing awareness about the homeless is a genuine cause, and we are passionate about what we are doing. This opportunity has allowed us to work outside the classroom and gain real-world experience. It will also be beneficial as we gain employment in the human services field later on.”

Class facilitator Rob Cooley, assistant professor of anthropology and environmental science, said the students in the Service Learning in Sociology class began their course work by exploring social issues faced by Williamsport and all of Lycoming County, then selecting a community issue and creating a sustainable project to help address the issue in their role as social advocates.

“To this end, the students decided to target the challenges of the growing problem of homelessness in the Williamsport area,” Cooley said. “The main goals are to provide Family Promise with financial resources from the fundraising drive and actual supplies to assist in its efforts to help homeless clients get back on their feet, and in a broader sense, to inform the local community of the true dimensions of homelessness in the area.”

More information is available on the Stop Homelessness with Penn College Human Service Students group’s Facebook page:


To learn more about the human services major at Penn College, visit

Penn College will mark 100 years as an educational institution of national reputation in 2014. For more information, visit, email or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

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Last Updated October 22, 2013