Members of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity will trade their warm beds for the floor of the Marshall Student Center Amphitheater during their annual “Sleepout for the Homeless” event.
President of the Zeta Xi Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Kahlil Sada said the event has been going on for “as long as (he) can think back,” and will encourage students to sleep outside from 6 p.m. today to 6 a.m. Friday, as if they were homeless.
“Over the years, the number of people who participate definitely fluctuates,” Sada, a senior majoring in public health, said. “I think it is the whole concept of sleeping outside for 12 hours all night that scares them away, but we always get a large group of supporters from our student body and Tampa Bay community.”
Myles Johnson, a sophomore majoring in public health, is one of the fraternity brothers who will be organizing the event.
“We have brothers that will commit twelve hours to living in half of a day that a homeless man would,” Johnson said. “We do this to provide awareness about homelessness in the Tampa Bay area. We want to get more people involved to possibly come up with a solution to solve this problem.”
According to the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County’s website, as of February 2009 there were 9,566 homeless men, women and children living in Hillsborough County. The county is home to 20 percent of Florida’s homeless population – the largest of any county in the state.
Sada said these statistics illustrate the magnitude of the homeless issue in the USF community and the need for help.
“The suggestion that I have to solving the homeless problem in Tampa Bay is simply to just be active, support and advocate,” he said. “Placing yourself in the position to help someone else is the best help anyone can ever provide.”
Sada said he believes that this issue hits home with his fraternity, specifically because civil service coincides with Phi Beta Sigma’s motto.
“The reason that this is a big issue to our fraternity is because, as men of Phi Beta Sigma, our brotherhood was founded on the motto, ‘Culture for Service and Service for Humanity,'” he said. “If we stand idly while our community is in need of salvation from educational deprivation, lack of drug awareness or homelessness, then we are not doing the job in which our founders entailed for us to do.”
Johnson said that while members of his fraternity are organizing the event, anyone can join them. They will be collecting clothes, books, food and toiletries for the homeless and a member of Metropolitan Ministries, an organization that “reaches out to poor, hungry and homeless men, women and children in their time of need,” will be speaking at the event.
Johnson said he believes that all USF students should help the homeless.
“You wouldn’t want your mom or dad out there, not having a home,” Johnson said. “We need to lend a hand because we all could possibly end up homeless. It affects everyone.”