Jen Kochaver, Features Editor
In’am Al-hammouri is many things: a junior at Augsburg majoring in psychology, a woman with plans to attend law school, an organizer, a member of the governor’s Young Women’s Initiative cabinet and soon-to-be founder of her own nonprofit (if all goes according to plan). This semester she may be remembered around campus most for her work done while wearing her organizer hat as she pulled together an act of community kindness and giving towards the Hiawatha homeless encampment.
As many may already know, a significant encampment of homeless individuals, many of whom identify as Indigenous, formed along Hiawatha near Franklin in September. This move raised awareness to Minneapolis’s significant failure to provide support to its homeless residents, and while the city has stepped up and done work to find housing for many of those who have lived in what many are calling Minneapolis’s Tent City, the relocations are slow, and winter was descended upon the city early.
Throughout the past couple months, Al-hammouri has been visiting the encampment along Hiawatha to sit down and chat with those who live there. It is important to her that she not just see what is happening and do nothing. She wanted to do something small but something that many people don’t make the time to do: talk to those suffering from homelessness person-to-person. And she did not want to stop by once, drop off old clothes that may or may not be useful, and never return. Al-hammouri made a point to come back over and over again in order to actually connect and begin to understand those living in the camp. She recounts sitting around the fire for hours, talking, laughing and, sometimes, crying. As she spent time with those living in Tent City, Al-hammouri realized two things: she had an obligation organize whatever was in her power to help connect those living in the encampment with resources that they need, and she was in a unique position to be able to ask people, genuinely, what they need most.
This event was organized in three weeks. Al-hammouri describes the process as “nonstop” in order to get everything prepared on time. Though Augsburg Day Student Government approved her request for funds, the proposal was shot down by Administration, citing requirements that Augsburg funds be spent on Augsburg students and stay on campus/within the Augsburg community with its impact. But this hardly slowed Al-hammouri, who immediately began contacting local businesses, organizations and corporations to pitch her project and was still able to raise the funds needed.
This event could never have happened without support and coordination from the larger community. Augsburg Day Student Government, Augsburg Student Activities Council and the Augsburg men’s soccer team worked together to organize volunteers and purchase supplies. Finally, on Sat., Nov. 17, everything was ready. It was completely intentional to hold this event near Thanksgiving to offer support in the spirit of the holidays and make sure those living in Tent City know that they will not be forgotten or unseen. In the end, more than 50 volunteers showed up to hand out needed supplies, a warm meal provided by the Camden and Riverside Lions Clubs and clean up around the encampment. Volunteers were recruited from Augsburg, St. Catherine’s and the University of Minnesota to make an impact, as well as some volunteers from other community groups.
In’am made it very clear in the time we spent chatting to prepare this piece that she wanted credit where credit is due: this event and its success was a product of the community coming together to make a positive impact and to call it her work and her work alone would be unfair and untrue. It took very little time for me to learn how passionate Al-hammouri is about her work and how humble she is about its (and her) impact. But Augsburg is lucky to have a leader like her on campus, and I look forward to seeing the positive impacts she continues to make in her community at Augsburg and onwards.
This article was originally published in the Nov. 30, 2018 issue.