The beginning of a new tenting tradition for interfaith Duke students began with approximately 40 students Sunday night.

Every day at noon and 10 p.m., an invited speaker will lead a teach-in on the topic of homelessness as part of J-Ville, an interfaith initiative aimed at bringing attention to the social justice issues relating to homelessness.

“J stands for justice, justice for the homeless,” said first-year John Turanchik, co-coordinator of Encounter Social Justice for the Catholic Center.

His co-coordinator, first-year John McMichael, officially opened J-ville and offered a prayer.

“We cannot imagine the chaos of living without [a home],” McMichael said.

The first invited speaker—Brother Michael Duffy, a Franciscan Friar and doctor of nursing—wrote his doctoral thesis on the issue of homelessness.

As part of his doctoral program, Duffy converted a camper into a mobile health unit to serve the homeless. He called the vehicle a "care-ivan."

Duffy spoke about the growing number of homeless people and the difficulty of identifying this piece of the population.

“If you’re trying to find a definition of homeless…good luck,” Duffy said.

He offered several definitions used by different agencies, including those who “sleep rough” or in places “inappropriate for human habitation.” Duffy noted that estimates of the homeless vary by millions.

Duffy shared stories of working in a free healthcare clinic, including the surprised reactions he received from those who learned it was adjacent to a particularly wealthy neighborhood.

“Anywhere we look…we can find homeless among our folk,” Duffy said.

In his talk, Duffy highlighted three areas of the population where homelessness is rapidly growing—veterans, people with mental illnesses or substance addictions, and families, particularly those with children.

Through his work with free health clinics, Duffy identified several common health issues among the homeless including frostbite, leg ulcers, respiratory infections and heat stroke.

Duffy said the number of homeless people in Durham increased from 698 to 759 in the past year, and the number of homeless children increased dramatically.

He urged students to establish relationships in the community, saying that this was the way to get better healthcare access to the homeless.

In November, Pope Francis urged all politicians to guarantee dignified work, education, quality housing and healthcare. Duffy said that ending homelessness needed to be a part of this effort.

“We need affordable, humane, and quality housing,” Duffy said.

Duffy shed light on the day-to-day difficulties facing the homeless, especially in terms of time.

“Do you walk to the clinic and get seen or do you walk to the soup kitchen and get food?” Duffy asked.

Following Duffy’s remarks, students moved into the Chapel basement to prepare food bags that will be delivered to Urban Ministries Monday. For the remainder of J-ville which ends Feb. 19, the social justice projects and alternative tenting will occur outside, but were moved tonight because of expected cold temperatures.

“God’s giving us ‘grace,’” Turanchik said.

Teach-ins will culminate in a call-to-action on Tuesday at 10 p.m. when participating students will share their experiences.