This morning the Social Justice Hub prepared food and hygiene bags at First United Methodist Church to distribute to the homeless community in Madison.

The club members spent several hours packing bags full of non-perishable meals, drinks, snacks and toiletries, Housing Equity Director Parnika Shukla said.

The Housing Equity Team is a new branch of The University of Wisconsin’s Social Justice Hub as of spring 2021, according to the club’s webpage.

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The Housing Equity Team meets every Tuesday morning to pack bags, Shukla said.

Shukla has been involved with the Social Justice Hub since May and has enjoyed the opportunity to get involved with the larger Madison community since then.

“I was really excited to get to know, and kind of be exposed to, people that I don’t normally get to see on a daily basis, especially since campus becomes a bubble sometimes,” Shukla said.

Because many UW students are unaware of the issue of homelessness in Madison, Shukla said the first step to fix the problem is recognizing that there is a problem.

This is a difficult task when most students are so caught up in their own busy schedules, Shukla said. But taking the time to aid the larger community has benefited her greatly.

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“It really can change the way you think about people and the way you empathize,” Shukla said. “That’s a really important impact that I’ve had personally.”

As of 2019, Dane County has 11.4 homeless people per 10,000 people, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. This is compared to 9.1 in Milwaukee County and 7.7 in the state of Wisconsin as a whole.

This year, the Social Justice Hub is partnering with Madison-area organizations that seek to assist the local homeless population, including The Beacon, Porchlight Homeless Solutions, UrbanTriage and First United Methodist Church Food Shelf according to the Housing Equity Team webpage.

Together, the organizations will host events both on and off-campus, according to the Housing Equity Team webpage. They hope to increase awareness and participation on campus, as well as continue volunteering in the community throughout the semester.

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If students are interested, they can fill out a volunteer interest form for future opportunities, fill out a signup spreadsheet for new volunteers or contact Parnika Shukla with questions at [email protected].

“Don’t be afraid to dip your toes in the water,” Shukla said. “It’s something I feel that everyone should do.”