RibbonsLast November, Ashlee Morgan found herself homeless.

Nearly 18, she’d have “sleep-overs” at various high school friends’ homes, most of the parents suspecting nothing. She’d carry her clothes in bags to school each day. She’d make her school lunch go as far as it could. She relied on others for transportation. She found refuge for a month in an unused trailer on a farm.

“I felt I was burdening people,” she says. “I felt I was asking too much.”

Telling of her own experience with homelessness and bringing attention to the topic is one way Morgan, now a UNCG freshman, feels she can make a difference.

Morgan will be among the panelists at UNCG’s “Voices of Homelessness & Hunger” program at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, at Elliott University Center’s Maple Room. She will join panelists from Joseph’s House and the Interactive Resource Center. The event is part of this week’s “Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week” at UNCG.

She managed to finish her course work at Granville Central High School by Christmas of her senior year, while taking dance classes. She also taught dance classes some nights of the week at the same studio, working a fast-food job on other nights. Last summer, she worked full time at a BP – all the time, saving what she could for college.

She walked 30 minutes each way to her job from the home of her brother, who had taken her in the previous winter. When her sister-in-law surprised her at the BP with a letter from UNCG, she opened it – yes, she was accepted – and started dancing behind the gas station counter.

Now Morgan is a very involved UNCG undergraduate. Her focus is Dance and International Business.

She has been active in helping organize activities for the special week, sponsored by UNCG’s Office of Leadership and Service-Learning (OLSL). Anya Piotrowski, an AmeriCorps VISTA member, is spearheading the effort.

Morgan has been active on the UNCG Campus Activities Board, where she helps plan student events. And active in other ways.

One of the most meaningful experiences this semester was a day volunteering with other UNCG students at September’s Triad Homeless Veterans Stand Down, where Morgan organized and distributed clothing. She will go on a UNCG service-learning trip over the winter break

Other students at UNCG have experienced homelessness, but just how many is not known. The Dean of Students Office partners with campus groups and community agencies through Partners Assisting the Homeless Spartan (PATHS), to assist students in need.

More than 2,600 young people in grades K-12 in Guilford County are homeless, Morgan says. This week Morgan will be one of the UNCG volunteers placing more than 2,600 stick figures on the EUC Lawn marking that fact. The OLSL-led project will be called “A Reason to Care: The Effect of Homelessness Amongst Students in Guilford County.

Her experience was hard, Morgan says, but “I’m really stubborn.” When housing at UNCG was in doubt because of her late application, she said, “I’m going to live in a tent on campus” if I have to. A supportive staff made sure she didn’t have to.

She doesn’t own much. One of her few prized possessions – her first guitar – she sold to help pay for college. But she wants no pity.

She wants people to think differently. “I see how people view the homeless, when they haven’t experienced it themselves. It’s hard to understand. Any homeless person, you’d make their day if you just say, ‘Hi’. If you give them food, you’re really helping them.”

Events like those during UNCG’s Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week can make a difference. And her story, she hopes, can inspire others: “It’s possible to get out of homelessness.”

See details on UNCG’s Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week here.

 

Posted by University Relations