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MHA students launch Humans of Morgantown campaign

Written by Robert Clark, public relations student

Humans of Morgantown banners

Martin Hall Agency students created their Humans of Morgantown campaign and pop-up exhibit while working with the Morgantown Special Committee on Unsheltered Homelessness.

According to a financial survey by Charles Schwab, 59% of Americans are just one paycheck away from being homeless. Despite this, unsheltered populations throughout the country are often heavily stigmatized.

This semester, Reed College of Media students in the Martin Hall Agency (MHA) capstone course partnered with the Morgantown Special Committee on Unsheltered Homelessness to build an integrated marketing campaign to raise awareness and empathy of homelessness. 

With the help of a $10,000 donation from Meyer Family Charitable Trust, the student team created a website, social media pages and a pop-up exhibit that can be reserved and displayed by community groups.

The students began by gathering existing data on the feelings of unsheltered people across the country, the opinions of others toward the unsheltered population and past campaigns that found success. Then, they conducted expert interviews with community and business leaders and partnered with Project Multidisciplinary UnSheltered Homeless Relief Outreach of Morgantown (MUSHROOM) to meet and interview community residents experiencing houselessness.

“During our research, we found that members of the unsheltered population do not feel like they’re homeless – their home is Morgantown,” said Rachel Johnson, a senior public relations student and account director for the campaign. “We wanted to find a way to convey to the community that unsheltered members of Morgantown are our neighbors too – they aren’t any different from us.”

The result was the creation of Humans of Morgantown (HoM) with the tagline “Houses don’t make neighborhoods. Neighbors do.” to encourage community members to embrace the unsheltered population as their neighbors. HoM provides the community with educational statistics about the unsheltered population and shares the stories of housed individuals alongside unsheltered community members to demonstrate their shared sentiments. 

City Council Presentation

Martin Hall Agency students presented their Humans of Morgantown campaign at the Morgantown City Council Committee of the Whole meeting on Nov. 30.

Through their research, the team decided to direct their campaign toward community opinion leaders such as Morgantown City Council members, business owners, police officers and neighborhood association leaders. On Nov. 30, the students presented their trade show exhibit to the Morgantown City Council Committee and led a discussion about the unsheltered population, which was covered by NBC/ABC affiliate, WBOY, WVNews and WVU’s student newspaper, The Daily Athenaeum

“We’re excited about the momentum Humans of Morgantown has created, and we’ve received extremely positive feedback from those in attendance at the meeting,” Johnson said. “A group has already booked the pop-up exhibit, and we’ve been contacted on social media by community members asking about organizations they can donate to.”

The MHA students also partnered with WV STEPS to host a Community Action Poverty Simulation on Dec. 2 to help community leaders connect with members of the unsheltered population on a more personal level. The simulation ran participants through a month in the life of someone facing poverty, providing them character cards with detailed backgrounds and grouping them into families. Families had to make everyday decisions, such as how much food they could buy and which bills should be paid, while also navigating life obstacles. 

While the fall semester capstone has ended, the work will continue. Throughout the spring semester, a new group of students in the MHA capstone will take over the account and continue developing and carrying out the existing HoM campaign.

Other MHA Fall 2021 Campaigns include: