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School of Public Policy Participates in National Hunger and Homelessness Week

As Part of Pepperdine’s 2015 Hunger and Homelessness Weeksponsored by the Pepperdine Volunteer Center from November 16-21, the School of Public Policy (SPP) was pleased to facilitate a Skype panel conversation with Stephanie Summers and Katie Thompson, who, along with columnist Michael Gerson, coauthored Unleashing Opportunity: Why Escaping Poverty Requires a Shared Vision of Justice. Interim Dean Pete Peterson met Summers and Thompson in Washington, D.C., shortly before the book was published and saw in their message a parallel to the mission of the School of Public Policy – that complex social issues cannot be seen merely as “the government’s responsibility,” but also that there is a role for public policy in addressing such issues, and sustainable solutions must take into account the role of and relationships between government, businesses, nonprofits, and the faith community.

The panel was moderated by SPP student Allie Bergeron (MPP candidate ’17), who also works part time with the Volunteer Center. While Unleashing Opportunity addresses five issues related to systemic poverty (early childhood, foster care, juvenile justice, graduation gaps, and payday loans), the panel focused in on the relationship between foster care and human trafficking in the United States. Summers and Thompson pointed out that 3 out of every 5 trafficking victims in the U.S. have spent some time in the foster care system. Especially for children who age out of the system and face potential homelessness and a lack of a stable community, the foster system can become a pipeline for traffickers, endangering the very children it is designed to protect.

In addition to describing the problem, Summers and Thompson discussed solutions. They made it clear that addressing this issue requires both policy solutions (such as Safe Harbor Laws and other changes to the law enforcement and justice system) as well as involvement by the faith community, nonprofits, and individuals. They described some ways that young people can be involved in meeting some of these needs even while they are still in college, and answered student questions about how to get more involved.