As the quarter draws to a close, those of you who have on-campus meal plans may find yourself wallowing in excess meals that you won't be able to use. Rather than simply letting them go unused, one group of students has what it thinks is a better idea: bring a guest to dinner.

The Student Homeless Outreach Team, an AS club, has organized its third quarterly Be Our Guest event, which will take place from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 5 in the Viking Commons. The event gives students the opportunity to buy dinner for a member of Bellingham's homeless community with remaining meals on their meal plans, Dining Dollars, Munch Money, or for $8.75 per meal ($17.50 would cover you and a guest) using cash or a credit card. The Student Homeless Outreach Team encourages students to arrive at 4:45 p.m. and dine with their guests.

“It's not about the food,” head coordinator for the Student Homeless Outreach Team Anna Hashman said. “It's about the conversations and actually getting to know people, breaking down the walls and building sustainable relationships.”

“Our whole plan is just creating a community, bringing people together,” Student Homeless Outreach Team founder Joe Homes said.

Homes, a junior at Western, organized the first Be Our Guest last winter quarter as a project for a leadership program through Landmark Education.

“It was something I'd thought about,” Homes said. “I had a meal plan freshman year and I would always end up with 13 or 14 extra meals, and I thought, ‘These are going to waste. I've already paid for them.'”

Only a handful of homeless guests showed up for the first event, so the Student Homeless Outreach Team ramped up publicity the following quarter. The team became an AS club and worked on plans to let more of the homeless community know about the event.

“Last year we fed about 90 people, and they were just floored by what we did,” Homes said. “A lot of the guests last year said they've never been served a meal where there's perishables,” such as ice cream and fresh salads.

The quality of the food is one of the factors that make Be Our Guest especially appealing to the homeless community, he said.
This year, the Student Homeless Outreach Team is working with the Rainbow Connection, a local organization with peer volunteers that serves many of Bellingham's homeless, to help promote the event in the community. The Whatcom Transit Authority (WTA) has also donated 200 tickets for free bus rides to help get people to and from Western who have no other form of transportation.

In addition to organizing Be Our Guest, the Student Homeless Outreach Team has been volunteering with C.A.S.T., a group that serves coffee and sandwiches to Bellingham's homeless
community. As a relatively new AS club, they are still looking to define themselves and evolve, Homes said.

The Student Homeless Outreach Team welcomes new members as well as volunteers for the Be Our Guest event on Dec. 5.