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Students help Tampa Bay’s homeless

Some USF students are hoping to aid the homeless in Tampa Bay through a class project.

The Hope for the Homeless project, which starts today and extends to Nov. 13, focuses on assisting adults and young adults, said Jennifer Courel, a student helping organize the project.

“We decided to focus (the drive) on homeless adults, because adults are often forgotten during the holidays,” said Courel, a junior majoring in English literature.

The project, an assignment for the Honors class Investigating Homelessness and Poverty, also recognizes homeless awareness next month, said Crystal Nix, a student involved with the project.

Students are collecting basic hygiene necessities, including soap, shampoo, deodorant, razors, shaving cream, brushes, combs, cotton swabs, feminine products, toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash, socks and extra large T-shirts.

The group’s goal is to provide at least 300 homeless individuals with these items, said Nix, a junior majoring in business management.

“Our expectation is just to be able to … collect bags and packages,” Nix said. “So it’s not just like an item per person. Obviously, we’re hoping for more than 300 items to be donated.”

The class instructor, Jack Garrett, said the items will be donated to Pinellas Hope Shelter Ministry of Catholic Charities Diocese of St. Petersburg, which provides emergency shelter for homeless individuals in Pinellas County.

Garrett said he thinks the drive is a great step toward raising awareness and taking action against homelessness in the community.

“I gave them some guidelines and some groups they could work with ranging from mobile medical vans here in Hillsborough County to shelter programs,” Garrett said. “They chose to do this project and they designed it.”

Courel said she hopes the drive will change some negative perceptions of homeless people.

“When we usually see a homeless person, our instinct is to just look away and drive on,” Courel said. “I hope that can change.”

The group is trying to gain approval to place collection boxes around campus, including in the Library, Marshall Student Center and the Honors College lounge, Nix said.

“We were told that we can’t collect anything in the dorms, and now we’re unsure if this policy applies to all of campus,” she said.

The group will get an answer today.

Nix said the group is mainly organizing the drive through the Honors College. She said the student group Christian Challenge has also agreed to help them collect items.

Local hotels including Extended Stay America, Marriott Residence Inn, Wingate by Wyndham and Embassy Suites have already donated items, Nix said.

“They’ve given us leftover free samples that they have in the hotels, like shampoos,” Nix said. “Some of them had razors and soap.”

Rack Room Shoes at University Mall and 42 North apartments have allowed the group to place collection boxes in their facilities.

Katrina Thomas, a junior medical technology major, said other local business like CVS, Winn Dixie, Wal-Mart, Payless Shoes and Sweetbay Supermarket have also shown interest in donating items.