From April 9 to May 7 CIVITAS — UW Tacoma’s Urban Studies student organization — is conducting a plastic bag drive for their Bags to Mats program. The gathered bags will be transformed by the club and fellow students into sleeping mats for Tacoma’s homeless population.
Plastic bag collection boxes can be found on the first and second floors of the Pinkerton building.
May 7 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the UWY room 304, the club will be creating “plarn” — plastic yarn — with the collected bags.
Tacoma Arts and Crafts Group will be helping students crochet sleeping mats in a separate event May 12 from 10 a.m. to noon and the completed mats will be donated to Nativity House — a homeless shelter and resource center in Tacoma — June 8.
CIVITAS President Emily Casebeer explained that the Urban Studies club is concerned about homelessness in Tacoma.
“CIVITAS’ mission is to learn about urban issues and positively impact Tacoma,” Casebeer said. “The lack of affordable housing and inadequate mental health care along with other urban issues have led many people into the vulnerable position of being homeless.”
The idea to turn plastic bags into something potentially lifesaving was not original to CIVITAS. One recent example is a group of students and athletes at the University of Utah who crocheted sleeping mats from plarn to distribute at local homeless shelters — with numerous other examples across the nation.
“Our Vice President, Katie Whaley, in the past had heard of a community group collecting plastic bags and crocheting them into sleeping mats for the homeless,” Casebeer said.
“So CIVITAS decided to do Bags to Mats for the homeless as a way to help people experiencing homelessness.”
The Bags to Mats program — which finds a reuse for a product difficult to recycle — is also in timing for Earth Day 2018, which was April 22.
Casebeer noted that CIVITAS’ recent Urban Excursion trip to New Orleans taught the group that the best way to make effective change is to assist an already well-established organization.
“These mats will be donated to the Nativity House to be redistributed as sleeping mats to the homeless that cannot get a bed for the night,” Casebeer said. “These sleeping mats are more hygienic, water proof, easily transportable, and provide protection from the cold concrete.”
CIVITAS welcomes all students interested in Urban Studies and community service — meetings are held Mondays in Pinkerton 104 at 12:30 p.m.