Plastic Houses Help Build Homes in Community
By Kim Guion, Features Editor
You may have seen the clear plastic containers at the Runner Café or Jazzman Café, and tossed in some change after purchasing your lunch or your daily coffee. What you may not know is the money that these plastic containers house is for a cause, which since early 2003, has made a tangible difference in the lives of many Bakersfield residents.
The cause is Homeless Quarters, an organization started by CSUB Sociology professor, Dr. Russell Travis, that has raised approximately $6,000.
Travis is the founder and president of the organization. Last Thursday, Travis honored workers from Sodexho, who provide food services on campus, for being instrumental to the success of the program. He presented them with framed certificates, which showed the appreciation for their participation in the program.
The Runner Bookstore was also presented with a Certificate of Appreciation to honor their contribution to the Homeless Quarters’ cause.
Jami Rhea, a Sodexho employee for 14 years, says she has had several compliments on the program, as students drop their change, and sometimes even their one and five-dollar bills, into the plastic houses. “I was just talking to a gentleman the other day, how we both saw (on the news) that one of the recipients of the money, a family living in a homeless shelter, were able to rent a place of their own,” Rhea said “People do ask about it and I tell them the money stays right in our community.”
Travis is enthusiastic about the spark his project has created in the community. The plastic houses are spreading like wildfire throughout many of Bakersfield’s local businesses. Currently, more than 40 businesses participate in the program.
Travis has also been recognized for his efforts within the community. He received a KERO 23 TV Leadership Award in 2003, and has been nominated for Bakersfield’s Humanitarian of the Year award. The awards ceremony will take place at the Doubletree Hotel on June 19.
Travis feels that the newly elected CSUB President, Horace Mitchell, will be an asset in fostering programs such as his that encourage community involvement.
“The board of directors (of Homeless Quarters) and myself recognize the emphasis he will make on creating a coalition between the campus and the community,” Travis said.
In his free time, Travis enjoys designing T-shirts. In addition to creating T-shirts for his cause, which feature the theme, “United We Stand Against Homelessness,” he also has generated some designs popular with locals. One of his T-shirt’s has a picture of an oil well, and quips “I love it when you talk crude.” Another says “Bakersfield, a riverbed runs through it.”
The saying, however, that Travis most abides by is one in Spanish that is posted on the organization's web site at www.homelessquarters.org. It is “juntos podemos,” which translates: “Together we can do that.”
For more information about Homeless Quarters, call Travis at 664-3159 or visit the organization's web site.
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