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ASU Project Humanities marks anniversary of service to homeless

July 30, 2015

In February 2014, ASU Project Humanities launched a volunteer initiative to benefit the Central Arizona Shelter Services. Every other Saturday from 6:45 to 8:00 am, student and community volunteers come together to serve the homeless population of Phoenix by distributing gently used clothes, shoes and other essentials.

What started out as a spontaneous day of service has now turned into a habitual gathering of volunteers. Now in 2015, Project Humanities continues to host this program. The service project is just one example of the many different ways the award-winning Arizona State University initiative continues its mission to engage members of the community by talking, listening and connecting.

Central Arizona Shelter Services provides shelter and supportive services to homeless individuals and aims to help them regain control of their lives and end their homelessness. The partnership extends much needed services beyond the facility and onto the sidewalks of Phoenix.

“Distribution of clothing has become the Project’s place in this,” said Neal A. Lester, founding director of Project Humanities. “What has been remarkable is even when people cannot go, they have brought donations to the office for us to distribute.”

“The fact that much of society has turned their backs on them [the homeless] does not mean that they are not worthy of our attention,” said Taylor Coe, an ASU student who has been a frequent volunteer. “It is important to me that they know someone cares for them.”

Melissa Koury, a senior at Betty H. Fairfax High School and summer intern at Project Humanities, recalls her experience volunteering as an eye-opener.

“Everything I knew about the homeless was based on stereotypes,” Koury said. “By the end of the service, I felt so grateful that my negative notions have transformed into something positive. I’m grateful for this enlightening experience, and look forward to the next day of service.”

This sentiment is at the heart of the Humanity 101 Movement, which focuses on the principles of respect, kindness, integrity, empathy, forgiveness, compassion and self-reflection. Launched in Spring 2014, Humanity 101 is an initiative revolving around the question, “Are we losing our humanity?” The movement aims at developing an educational and organizational connection between ASU and the community.

“The homeless population is not monolithic,” Coe said. “They vary in their ambitions, pleasures, and pains just like anyone else. Connecting with these people and treating them with dignity, as we should all people, reminds me in a very real way that their struggles are real even though they are seldom spoken about in polite society.”

During summer services, the Arizona heat can be exceptionally harmful. Project Humanities is in need of water and would be grateful for donations. For more information on upcoming service days and other events, visit