Heggen to share book in upcoming forum

by Amanda YanchuryStaff Writer

Simpson College alumnus Danny Heggen will speak on the issue of homelessness in Iowa at a forum event next Wednesday, Oct. 14. The event will take place in the Pioneer Room in McNeill Hall at 7 p.m.

“The forum will focus on the issue of homelessness amongst youth in Iowa,” Heggen said. “More than 10,000 youth were on our streets last year. I will be speaking about the book I have recently published. The book is a collection of letters from youth whom I met in shelters.”

Heggen’s interest in homeless youth began in 2006 when he attended Reggie’s Sleep Out in Des Moines. The event is a fundraiser for Iowa Homeless Youth Centers. His interest developed further when he spent time volunteering at a women’s prison in Australia.

“Almost every woman I spoke to told me she’d get released, fail to find support from family or a job, spend some time on the streets, stay in and out of shelters, and then recommit,” Heggen said. “And it got me wondering what was going on in these shelters. So I started volunteering and quickly realized this was going to be my next writing project.”

Heggen said the purpose of his book, and the event, is to inform those who are unaware of the problem of youth homelessness in Iowa.

Brian Steffen, professor and chair of the communication and media studies department, helped organize this forum event.

“Danny’s book project highlights a significant and largely ignored problem in our community,” Steffen said. “There are way too many homeless young people in Iowa, and they’re largely invisible. Danny’s book helps shed light on it.”

Junior Macy Koch is planning to attend the event.

“I’ve been interested in Danny’s work since he was working in a womens’ prison while abroad,” Koch said. “Danny is an excellent person to come and listen to because he is very knowledgeable and his stories are interesting and involve many things that most people wouldn’t do.”

Heggen hopes that students will gain insight and understanding of this significant problem in Iowa.

“The 10,000 (homeless youth) come from the 97 out of 99 counties that reported cases of youth homelessness last year,” Heggen said. “They just end up in urban Iowa, however, because that’s where services are being provided. So we need to reach out to them.”

Koch is excited that Heggen is coming back to Simpson to speak.

“Danny puts a lot of things into perspective through his work,” Koch said. “I love listening to him talk.”

Steffen believes that current students will attend the event to support a Simpson alumnus.

“I hope students will come out to support (Heggen’s) cause,” Steffen said. “They will hear a story that will disturb them and maybe spur them to act.”

Heggen’s book will be available for sale to students attending the forum event. Heggen says that of the $20 cost, $10 of it will be donated to the shelters.

More information on his project can be found at www.sowsomethingmeaningful.com.