We answer the following questions about the goals and outcomes of Urban Plunge regularly. If you’d like more information on Urban Plunge, contact Michael Chew, coordinator for immersive community engagement, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is the purpose/goal of Urban Plunge?
The goal of Urban Plunge is to give students a personal experience that will equip them to engage the homeless population with empathy and compassion. We hope students will gain a better understanding of homelessness and its myriad of causal factors.
We encourage students to enter the experience humbly; students are not seeking an “extreme experience” or on a mission to “save the homeless.” Rather, they seek to understand another individual’s perspective. We also hope students will have the knowledge and resources to get involved and serve in our local community.
Who are Urban Plunge’s partners?
A number of community organizations dedicated to serving the homeless community support the Urban Plunge program by hosting site visit presentations during the five-day experience.
Each day, Urban Plunge students visit an organization to learn about the organization’s work, philosophy, and client population. Frequently, students volunteer with these organizations after Urban Plunge, having developed a new appreciation for the organization’s work.
Are students using up resources, depriving the homeless community of the things they need to survive?
Students spend the night in a local church, leaving much-needed beds available for those who are genuinely homeless. Students are asked to keep track of where they eat, because SPU reimburses agencies for meals eaten by program participants during Urban Plunge.
Are students trying to fool people into thinking they’re homeless?
Students are instructed to be honest and up-front with those they come in contact with during Urban Plunge. Students are instructed to immediately reveal their identities to anyone they begin to converse with or form a relationship with.
Students can’t “know that it’s like to be homeless” after five days on the streets, can they?
We stress at the end of Plunge that participants do not have it “figured out” and we have no right to say, “I lived on the street for five days; I know what it’s like!”
Urban Plunge is a small glimpse of what certain aspects of homelessness are like — having no money, finding your own food, and being ignored by mainstream society. The goal of Urban Plunge is empathy, compassion, and a desire to serve, not an “extreme experience.”
Students will not know what it’s like to be homeless, but they will have a better understanding of what this experience is like for others.