Michelle Liu

Before Yale School of Medicine students start the bidding in their 23rd annual Hunger and Homelessness Auction this Thursday, they are first working to spread knowledge about their cause.

Along with the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project, the auction’s education committee hosted a panel on homelessness Tuesday evening, drawing a crowd of roughly 30 medical students and undergraduates. The panel featured three speakers: New York City community activist Kendall Jackman, executive director of New Haven-based homelessness service organization Liberty Community Services John Bradley ’81 and Wellington Mackey ’19, who has experienced homelessness firsthand and started a program to fight food insecurity in the Bronx. The panel served as a “robust educational component” to the upcoming auction fundraiser, which will be held Thursday at ES Harkness Hall, auction co-chair Tejas Sathe MED ’18 said. The auction has a silent and a live component, with items donated by community members. The silent auction has migrated online this year after students created a website where participants can view and bid on items, Sathe said.

“The entire Yale School of Medicine community comes together to do everything for their neighbors,” he said.

The annual auction will bring together medical school students and faculty to raise funds for six different local nonprofit organizations this year, including Continuum of Care, an organization fighting homelessness in New Haven, and Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services, a refugee resettlement program run by the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, auction grant committee co-chair Dan Barson MED ’22 said. This year, auction organizers aim to raise $25,000. Last year’s auction raised $26,890.

The panel allowed medical students to “more accurately understand the impact of what we raise,” Sathe said.

Panelists stressed Tuesday that the homeless population often consists of working poor and families. They also compared the solutions and systematic barriers the homeless encounter in New York and New Haven.

Bradley noted that New Haven is one of the few cities in the state that allocates funds to homeless shelters in its budget. He commended Gov. Dannel Malloy’s announcement last August that Connecticut has ended chronic homelessness among veterans. Bradley added that the state could now focus more resources on the general homeless population.

“Keep your eyes open,” Bradley said. “As medical students and practitioners, you’re going to come across a diverse number of people. Your job [is to be] a public advocate.”

Jackman told attendees that homelessness stems from wages too low to cover workers’ high costs of living. To combat homelessness, students should work to dispel stigma surrounding the homeless population, she added.

Mackey addressed the medical students directly, telling them that they should consider doing pro bono work for the homeless.

“I’ve seen firsthand where people have to decide between getting medical services and retaining a bed in a shelter,” Mackey said. “It’s a terrible decision nobody should have to make.”

In addition to the panel, the auction committee has set up a temporary exhibition inside the student lounge. The exhibition, which features facts related to food insecurity and homelessness in the Elm City, uses recycled materials as a visual aid, said auction education committee member Sarah Abdallah ’14 MED ’19. For one display, Abdallah collected a number of food cartons she found in the trash and weighed the amount of leftover food in each to demonstrate food waste.

Items up for bidding include a day with two corgis named Molly and Finley and a “beagle therapy” session, according to the website. As of Tuesday evening, the highest bid for the beagle therapy session was $31, while the corgis had netted $75.