Students and faculty in the Department of Sociology and Rural Studies are tackling homelessness and poverty in Brookings. Hobo Day is their catalyst to achieve that.
Julie Yingling, an assistant professor in the department, helped start the Hobos Help Out campaign to raise money for programs in the Brookings area. South Dakota State’s homecoming celebration brings attention to the issue because of its historical relevance.
“Hobos as a group, back in the day, were migrant workers who were impoverished and had to find work. [They] often had families, who would then take the train back a season later, a year later to their families. It’s a group that historically has struggled to find work and to survive,” Yingling said. “So for celebrating, honoring or incorporating (poverty and homelessness awareness) into the homecoming celebration, to me, is a natural extension.”
One in five Brookings residents lives in poverty, according to the 2015 American Community Survey five-year estimates. That’s higher than the national average at 13.5 percent, according to the 2015 U.S. Census Bureau Survey.
But poverty is hidden in Brookings and the city has a “huge food insecurity problem,” said Patricia Ahmed, a lecturer in the department. It even includes students. Ahmed said she’s seen many students struggle while working full time and attending school.
Hobos Help Out will take donated nonperishable food items and monetary donations to the Brookings Food Pantry and the Family Self-Sufficiency Program. There will be food drop-off stands outside Bozieds, Sully’s, and Pints and Quarts during the parade; and money can be brought to the Main Street Cottonwood during Hobo Week to enter a raffle for a gift card.
The group will also have a float in the parade to educate and “try to get something good out of Hobo Day,” according to Ruthie Wienk, a graduate student working with the group.
“It’s not just enough to know about it,” Wienk said. “Here’s the problem, but then here’s something we can do to come alongside and provide a solution.”
Margaretha Tinglund, sophomore sociology major, is involved to make a positive impact on the celebration and thinks others can do their part.
“A lot of little things is still a lot,” Tinglund said.
The group doesn’t have a huge goal for their first year, just “a few hundred dollars,” according to Yingling. But they’d like to make this a part of Hobo Day in the long run.