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Book by Brenau students examines homelessness in Hall County
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Victoria Swaim and Sara Jane Bowers speak Wednesday night during the “Facing Homelessness in Gainesville and Hall County” book launch event at the John S. Burd Center for the Performing Arts at Brenau University in Gainesville. The Brenau students immersed themselves in the homeless community of Hall County and Gainesville to create the book. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Fourteen weeks of blood, sweat and tears led to a book filled with 17 stories on homelessness.

Members of the Brenau Facing Project released the book Wednesday night.

“I could not be more proud of them,” said Juli Clay, a Brenau professor and the grant writer for the project.

To create their book, the students immersed themselves in the homeless community of Hall County and Gainesville. They sought out agencies like Good News at Noon, Under the Bridge Ministries and the Georgia Mountain Food Bank to enlighten them on the situation.

“They realized how quickly someone can go from working poor to homeless,” Clay said.

The students also learned some startling facts about the area they live in. For instance, the Georgia Mountain Food Bank provides meals to 30,000 people per month.

Project manager and Brenau student Sara Hubaishi said she went to the shelters and was surprised by what she saw there.

“It was not the easiest thing,” Hubaishi said.

The group didn’t want to just publish a book and forget about the issue. Instead, it took donations of money and food at the event.

“We wanted the project to have a lasting effect on Hall County,” said Victoria Swaim, a student editor of the project.

All proceeds from the book will go back to community partners.

“They are really the backbone of this project,” Hubaishi said.

A food drive will be in the Jacobs building lobby of Brenau’s campus until Friday.

The group also encouraged the attendees to get out into their community and volunteer time and effort to the cause.

“It’s our duty to volunteer,” said Nicole Vernon, who handled the public relations for the project.

Suzanne Erickson, dean of the College of Business and Mass Communication, also spoke at the event about how proud she was of the students. She said her vision for the department was to focus on issues in the community like homelessness.

“This (project) is getting right at that idea,” Erickson said.

The project had its ups and downs, but it started with big and bright ideas. The Student Government Association and the media board of Brenau donated some money for the project.

“The class really functioned like a business,” said Cassidy Collier, the event planner for the project. “We had to work outside of class to get it done.”

A few performers were also asked to come to shed light on the subject.

Ambriah Griggs sang a song, Shanik Moore performed an interpretive dance, Emma Johnson read a poem about the food bank, Brianna Prater read her poem “Atlanta” about a homeless man, and Chelsea Purnell shared her story of being homeless.

Kenya Hunter wrote a spoken word poem and also assisted with the project as talent recruiter.

“I’ve never had to deal with homelessness (before),” Hunter said.

Times reporter Joshua Silavent spoke at the event about his experience covering the homeless community for the paper.

The book costs $20 and can be purchased at www.brenau.facingproject.com.

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