Students start community pantry to help those experiencing homelessness

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    DALLAS (KTVT) — There are more empty shelves now at the Peace Pantry on the campus of Dallas ISD’s Yvonne Ewell Townview Magnet Center.

“We have backpacks, we don’t ask their names. They can come in get whatever they need,” explains Townview Law Magnet senior Ariana Flores, “and leave.”

Flores and her classmates looking to restock the pantry say the empty shelves are a good thing – for now.

“When I walk in and maybe there’s a shampoo that was there yesterday and it isn’t today… even that one piece of shampoo is an impact that we made,” says fellow senior Gloria Espinosa. “It gives me joy.”

Still, those empty shelves need to be filled, and the Townview Law Magnet student organizers are turning to the community to help them restock their community pantry, having seen firsthand that need doesn’t exclude even their high performing peers.

“That doesn’t mean people don’t struggle,” says Flores quickly, “just because they’re smart.”

In fact, the students say as they work to help classmates, they’re also hoping to help the community craft a different view of the homeless crisis – one that experts say is growing out of sight and away from the corner panhandlers and garbage-filled encampments under bridges.

The hidden homeless are often families and students.

“Maybe they’re sleeping at their friends house, maybe they’re sleeping somewhere else that is not a home,” says Espinosa, “and they are technically considered homeless, but don’t really talk about it.”

According to Dallas ISD, the district provides services to some 3,900 homeless students right now, often housed in transient hotels or “couch-surfing” among friends.

“We have students who come to school, and they have smiles on their faces and you would never know,” says Rozana Rojas, a Law Magnet graduate and now internship coordinator for the campus. “But when they pull you to the side and say `Ms. Rojas, I need help,’ that’s what we are here for.”

The students are launching a restock the pantry drive starting next week, November 14 and running through December 16.

They’re asking the community to donate non-perishable food items like canned vegetables, soup, canned tuna, chicken and peanut butter.

They also need oatmeal, fruit cups and almost anything that can easily be turned into a meal without refrigeration. But they especially need hygiene items like feminine products, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste deodorant and lotion.

Donations can be dropped off at the front entrance to the Townview Magnet Center, 1201 E. Eighth Avenue in Dallas. Organizers say there are so many students who need the help – and they plan to keep working to make sure they get it.

“We’re not going to judge,” explains Flores. “If you need it, take it. It’s not your fault.”

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