Editorial: Sleep Out for the Homeless Should Prompt Reflection in UT Community

A number of Minaret staffers joined students in P.E.A.C.E.’s Sleep Out for the Homeless last weekend. In an effort to raise awareness about the population of destitute and down-on-their-luck citizens, P.E.A.C.E. set up boxes for students to decorate and live in for 24 hours.

While few students actually stayed for 24 hours, a number of them stayed for significant portions of the night, which turned out to be one of the coldest this fall.

The opinions of The Minaret staffers who slept out echoed the opinions of many fellow students who were out in the cold: being homeless is an awful experience.

While there is a wide range of demographics at UT, we share a common trait: every night, we have some place to sleep.

Thousands of people in Tampa and beyond lack the gifts we are so lucky to have. Whether we have earned or have been given the privilege of a roof over our heads and a meal in our stomachs, we rarely have the chance to see life from the other side.

Events like Sleep Out for the Homeless create unique opportunities for college students to authentically engage with the human side of a much discussed social issue.

Yet such events, no matter how well organized, are no guarantee that students will come away with such an experience. At the end of the day, it is the attitude that the student brings to the experience that shapes what he or she will take out of it.

Last year, some students made for an unpleasant experience for others with rowdiness and rude actions. This year’s event featured well-behaved students and general camaraderie among the participants.

For those who wanted to understand what a homeless person must deal with every day, it was a quick peek at a night out in the cold. Combined with the presentation and the candle light vigil, it provided a snapshot of homeless life to a number of members of the UT community who, under normal circumstances, would not suffer a night that leaves no understanding of what the next day may bring.

Dozens of the homeless spend their nights just across the Hillsborough River on the steps of the Sacred Heart Church. The Franciscans there have welcomed these people with open arms and understanding despite the efforts of some to have the transients removed from the city streets. After spending the night grappling with the cold with an authentic and reflective disposition, students may now be able to appreciate the efforts of the Franciscans and those like them on a level previously unavailable. Genuinely experienced, events like Sleep Out provide an important link between students and the community that is all too often missing in our everyday lives.

Sleep Out was an opportunity for reflection for some, a way to rack up community service hours for others, and a time to hang out on the lawn of Sykes for the rest. For those who look back on their experience with a face to the future, Sleep Out will have a positive impact. While we woke up, dismantled our boxes and went about the rest of our lives, hundreds of thousands of people around the country woke up and had no idea what to do or where to go. The Minaret urges those who participated and even those who did not, to look at what they do every day and appreciate it. Honor those who gave you the chance to be where you are today. There are millions of people who would give anything to be where we are, a fact that is often forgotten as we take our stations in life for granted.

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