Student Initiative Seeks to Change Perception of Homeless

The Grits Collective is a student-led group at Colorado College that was founded by seniors Caitlin Canty, Paige Clark, and Benjamin Criswell. Its purpose is to use the power of story-telling to promote social change. Grits utilizes stories, poetry, and artwork created by people experiencing homelessness and hunger in Colorado Springs.

The Grits Collective hopes to fight prejudice towards the homeless population in Colorado Springs. They aim to spur a shift in the way society views the homeless by putting faces to and telling the stories of the homeless. Grits hopes that this, in turn, will improve the lives of homeless people in the community.

Their mission includes holding workshops, conducting interviews, and collecting art in the region to contribute to a quarterly publication. Parts of the publication are featured as an insert in the Colorado Springs Independent and can be found in the archives of Tutt Library.

“I personally was really involved with Good Food club, and Good Food Coalition on campus here, so when the soup kitchen was closing, they reached out to the Good Food Coalition people first,” said Canty.

The Grits Collective formed as a proposal for the Colorado College Soup Project Challenge, which was created after the CC soup kitchen closed in 2015. It was created as a way for CC students to maintain a connection to the Colorado Springs community.

Canty recruited Clark and Criswell to brainstorm ideas for the Soup Project Challenge. After juggling several options, Clark came up with a publication idea that gained the support of both Criswell and Canty. “We rallied behind it,” said Canty.

They were awarded funding, along with Mobile Meals, the Ponderosa Project, and the CC Family Center.

The Grits Collective has a substantial volunteer base of around 20 students. The Collective has split into teams which include the street team, the Colorado Springs Rescue Mission team, and the Urban Peak team.

The organization is partnered with the Marian House, Urban Peak, Colorado Springs Food Rescue, and KRCC. These partnerships provide support, work space, and rescued food for the program.

“Urban Peak is the perfect location to have a workshop-like setting, just because of the nature of what they do there,” said Canty. “It has been an awesome partnership. We have a very consistent group of people that come to our workshops every week, and they are all really into slam-poetry, which is really fun.”

The Grits Collective named their last issue “The Youth Issue,” which focused on the group’s relationship with Urban Peak, an emergency shelter in Colorado Springs that caters to youth. The issue featured work from young adults between the ages of seventeen and twenty-one. The shelter provides basic needs as well as health services, education, and employment support in order to empower youth towards self-sufficiency.

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