Students spend a night homeless on campus

Sleeping on cardboard boxes and huddling under blankets to keep warm is not usually the ideal Friday night for a college student – especially those who have a cozy dorm room nearby.

Yet more than 40 students gathered on the Castor/Kosove Lawn and slept on boxes and under blankets Friday to learn about hunger and homelessness in their community and around the world.

“I wanted to come out and just learn about the issue of homelessness and just try to make a difference,” said freshman Amanda Kruszeski, majoring in art studio.

The event, called the 2007 Campus Sleepout, was sponsored by Bulls for Bulls Country and the Center for Civic Engagement and Volunteerism (CCEV).

The Sleepout was part of Hunger Awareness Week, which USF hosts every year to educate students about poverty and homelessness.

Free food from the Jerk Hut was provided and scenarios, dialogues and case studies were staged to educate the crowd on homelessness and poverty.

“We try to keep it real local in the Sleepout just to show people that these issues really do affect people in their own backyard,” said Christy Burke, a CCEV Coordinator. “We’re going to do some activities tonight that engage people to see just how close anyone can get to becoming homeless,” Burke said Friday.

The main focus of the night was the showing of the film Easy Street, which was produced by USF alumni Andrew Lee. Easy Street documents the lives of homeless people in St. Petersburg for one year.

One of the five homeless people featured in the film, G.W., came and addressed the crowd before the film’s start.

G.W. became homeless after his home was burned and condemned.

“I commend you guys for wanting to know what it’s like and being out here,” he told the crowd.

One of the event’s coordinators and volunteers, Vincent Castillenti, a senior majoring in psychology, has had a lot of experience working with the homeless as part of Sarasota’s Food Not Bombs group.

Food Not Bombs are non-profit groups that feed the homeless in their respective communities. They are not affiliated with other non-profit groups.

Castillenti hoped that meeting face-to-face with G.W. would help to put homelessness into perspective.

“The problem is they’re invisible people and it’s hard to fix a problem you don’t want to acknowledge,” Castillenti said.

Castillenti also stressed the lack of community support structure for the homeless.

“We as a society and community need to support each other,” he said.

The final event of Hunger Week will be the USF Hunger Banquet at 6 tonight in the Marshal Center ballroom.

“It’s really about raising awareness and getting people to realize it is an issue,” Burke said. “We hope that students will take an interest in these issues and want to find a way to get active and make a difference.”