School: Betty H. Fairfax High School
The economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic have made the challenges of homelessness more pronounced and evident. Karasi Colter, a senior at Betty H. Fairfax High School in Phoenix, is reaching out to the homeless community, one “Dignity Bag” at a time.
Through her volunteer work with DSquared Homes for the Homeless, Colter has become a leading advocate for the homeless in south Phoenix and the greater Valley despite being only 17 years old.
“I got started at quite a young age, 6 or 7 years old,” Colter said. “That was through my mom explaining what homelessness is, explaining it all to me. All I could understand was being hungry.”
Colter sees her mission as two-pronged, and parallel: to personally get assistance to the homeless in Phoenix while also raising awareness and erasing the stigmas associated with homelessness.
“The most common stigma that I hear is that everyone who’s homeless is on drugs,” Colter said. “It’s important to know that a lot of people who are homeless are seriously mentally ill. Or, they’re working and homeless – they simply have a housing issue. I met a man who couldn’t pay his housing bill after a hospital discharge.”
Ultimately, Colter’s goal is seeing the humanity within all of us. Through her volunteer work with DSquared, she organizes groups to assemble and distribute Dignity Bags. About the size of a grocery bag, the Dignity Bags can be carried on your back and contain soap, lotion, shampoo, toothpaste, a toothbrush, sanitary pads, wet wipes and snacks.
Colter has recruited volunteers as well as corporate involvement, including donations from United Healthcare, Bombas and Hanes.
“Although these people are on the street, when you pass them every day it can become easy to see them as another thing on the road,” Colter said. “Acknowledge these people as a human, see the humanity in this person. Your generosity never goes unnoticed.”Back to Recipients