HMP Student Liam John Focusing on Bigger Picture of Support Networks
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Saint Louis University student Liam John (BSHMP ‘23) has been engaged with the St. Louis community in the areas of housing, identification and food access.
John has worked and volunteered with several related organizations including Tent Mission STL, the College Church Birth Certificate and ID program, Campus Kitchen SLU and Winter Outreach/Haven. Each of these organizations has its own mindset and mission but they work together using trauma-informed ideologies to create a more holistic and streamlined web of services for local populations in need.
When it comes to finding solutions for housing and food insecurity, John is interested in a macro approach.
“(The idea of) macro solutions is twofold for me, starting to look at the systems that cause/perpetuate housing and food access issues such as large companies that evict or threaten eviction to gain more money off marginalized people, large grocery stores that run small ones out of business while abandoning neighborhoods with nothing, et cetera,” John said. "I am happy to work alongside other dedicated, mutual aid people...and to bridge those divides and make relationships.
“Campus Kitchen helps provide groceries for the Tent Mission folks; the ID and birth certificate program works with different shelters and Tent Mission to help know where to go to get the identification; SLU Center for Service and Community Engagement [provided] a 1818 grant which allowed us to get PPE and crockpots for Tent Mission/Campus Kitchen.”
At Tent Mission, great emphasis is put on having conversations with unhoused individuals to determine their individual needs, John said.
“Throwing someone food and leaving is not the solution. Giving vaccines with no education is not the solution," John said. "Giving someone clothes that one does not want is not the solution.”
Volunteers give people options for assistance from an available community of resources and strive to find additional resources if needed.
John also works to help people navigate getting birth certificates and IDs. Being able to obtain some form of identification makes it less difficult for someone to acquire housing, jobs, health care, and anything of the sort. John notes that ID issues are often more difficult for marginalized communities including transgender people, people of color, immigrants and refugees.
John said he hopes to use these experiences, which also include setting up emergency shelters and counseling felons on their voting rights, along with additional coursework to learn more about advocating for policy changes.
College for Public Health and Social Justice
The Saint Louis University College for Public Health and Social Justice is the only academic unit of its kind, studying social, environmental and physical influences that together determine the health and well-being of people and communities. It also is the only accredited school or college of public health among nearly 250 Catholic institutions of higher education in the United States.
Guided by a mission of social justice and focus on finding innovative and collaborative solutions for complex health problems, the College offers nationally recognized programs in public health, social work, health administration, applied behavior analysis, and criminology and criminal justice.