Students to Sleep Outside, Eat in Soup Kitchen
DAYTON, Ohio (AP) _ A group of university students plan to get a firsthand look at life through the eyes of the homeless, spending a night on campus streets and queuing up in soup kitchen lines for bread and broth.
The program is the brainchild of Sister Nancy Bramlage, coordinator of the University of Dayton’s Office of Justice, Peace and Community Outreach.
″What we want to do is first of all raise the awareness of students that there is the growing problem in the United States with the homeless and also give them a little bit of an experience of what it must be like - even to a tiny extent - to be homelesss,″ said Sister Bramlage.
She said the program, which is scheduled to begin Thursday, is also designed to encourage students to lobby for more affordable housing.
Students in the program will be encouraged not to return to their houses or residence halls for 24 hours and to sleep on the campus plaza. Next day, they will be expected to take their belongings with them to classes.
Breakfast will consist of coffee and stale bread. The lunch soup line will offer bread, vegetable soup and water.
The alternative to sleeping on the plaza will be attendance at hourly prayer vigils in the chapel all night long, she said.
Sister Bramlage said she came up with the idea after students showed a strong interest in the hunger issue. Enrollment at the Catholic university is 6,500.
″I think the fact that families are homeless is just a real serious problem for society,″ she said. ″If we’re going to allow that, what’s that going to do to the fabric of society?″
William Faith, director of the Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, said he thinks the cause is noble, but the students need to understand that they are sleeping outside out of choice.
″It’s not terribly different than winter camping,″ Faith said. ″People that are out there on the streets are out there because they have no other options and they have no other choice. And they’re doing it night after night after night.″
About 140,000 Ohioans took part in homeless-assistance programs last year, and in Columbus, requests for emergency shelters for families have quadrupled since 1987, Faith said.