A new student group at the University of Minnesota is working to better the living situations of homeless people in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
Ifeyinwa Ikegwuani — a first-year student — wanted a way to help the area’s homeless population, especially in harsh winter conditions. She decided to post on the University of Minnesota Class of 2020 Facebook page, which has over 5,000 members, to recruit help.
In her post, Ikegwuani asked peers to join Hearts2Help, a student group made to support homeless people in the area with food and supplies.
“We will focus on collecting toiletries, clothing, food and anything else necessary to help them get through these harsh Minnesota winters,” she said in the post. The group has grown to over 100 members since late October, which Ikegwuani said is largely due to social media.
“I always find myself in areas where a lot of homeless people are. Especially being in Minneapolis, I see it so much and really wanted to help,” Ikegwuani said on her rationale for starting Hearts2Help.
Minnesota has seen a drop in homelessness since 2012, according to a 2015 report by Wilder Research. But there’s still a high demand for winter clothes and donations, said Michelle Whitney, administrative assistant for People Serving People — the state’s largest homeless shelter.
“We get a lot of donations from businesses, charities, student groups,” Whitney said.
One of Hearts2Help’s current projects is a winter clothes drive.
“We have about five or six schools around the Twin Cities that are contributing,” Ikegwuani said. “Our items are going to a number of shelters around the Minneapolis area, including Mary’s Place, The Bridge for Youth and People Serving People.”
Jasmine Lee, an officer for Hearts2Help, said a main focus of the group is to provide shelters in the area with items that will aid those in need.
Ikegwuani said the clothing drive was the biggest project for Hearts2Help since its inception in October.
And increasingly,over recent years, student groups on campus have looked more to social media to reach new members and to increase visibility.
“I went through Facebook to see if there were people out there that would be interested in joining the group,” said Ikegwuani. “I wasn’t expecting as much of a turnout.”