Thursday, November 09, 2006

Under the Stars: Sleeping for a Cause

SJSU Student protesters pitch tents on campus:
Organization hopes to shed light on homelessness

Sparten Daily: By
Diana Diroy Date: 11/9/06 (click here for on-line version)

Participants at the event "Under the Stars: Sleeping for a Cause," watched Spike Lee's documentary, "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts," discussed poverty issues, and slept next to the Tommy Smith and John Carlos statues Tuesday night.

The first Tuesday of November marked a day when Americans have their voices heard at the election polls, but at San Jose State University, students found another way to have their voices heard, by sleeping out. With pitched tents and sleeping bags, 24 people slept next to the statues of Olympics runners and SJSU alumni Tommy Smith and John Carlos as part of an event the Student Homeless Alliance hosted to increase student awareness of homelessness.

"Whether or not we like to admit it or not, homelessness does affect us at San Jose State," Danielle Carmichael, a member of SHA said. "We have seen homeless people around campus scavenging for food, collecting bottles to turn in. So anything we could do to help them is a plus."At the sleep out, people gathered to watch and discuss Spike Lee's documentary, "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts."

The four-hour film brought up issues that the crowd discussed, such as the media's coverage, the government's response and homelessness in America. "We choose this film," said Victor Ly, vice president of SHA, "because like Katrina, homelessness is also a natural disaster."According to Family Supportive Housing, Inc., an organization that provides temporary shelter and support services for homeless families in Santa Clara County, more than 20,000 people experience homelessness in Santa Clara County. Of that 20,000 people, families make up 41 percent.

CHAM shelter resident Micheal Ray kisses his son Micheal Ray Junior at the Community Homeless Alliance Ministry Tuesday evening. "We have more homeless people in Santa Clara County, then San Francisco County and most people do not realize that," Ly said. "In a city as rich as San Jose, it's not unfortunate, it's unjust."

The sleep-out, which was called "Under the Stars: Sleeping for a Cause," is one of the events that SHA organized for SJSU's Homeless Action Week. Opening speakers kicked off the week on Monday and students enjoyed free food at the Service Learning Barbeque on Tuesday.

"With homeless action week, we hope to promote more awareness on campus," said Rochelle Smarr, president of SHA. "We hope to abolish all these stereotypes and get more people out here to advocate for homelessness. "Before the sleep-out, SHA and other SJSU students volunteered and cooked dinner for homeless families living at the Community Homeless Alliance Ministry. They were behind kitchen doors, cooking and preparing chorizos, eggs, potatoes and fries.

"We always love them being here. It's a break for me," said Coco Hanna, the resident manager of the alliance ministry and cooks dinner for a dozen families every night. "We appreciate it more than they'll ever know." The Student Homeless Alliance is a SJSU student-run organization whose goal is to educate students about homelessness in San Jose. President of SHA Rochelle Smarr revived the program after it disappeared for a few years.

"It's heartwarming to see it be resurrected," Pastor Scott Wagers, president of the alliance ministry said. Wagers started SHA when he was a student at SJSU in 1991."What the students are doing is quite effective," Wagers said, "I've been there." When Wagers started SHA, there were about 100 students involved that participated in protests, homeless feedings, and sleep-outs. Wagers received campus-wide attention and even met Bill Clinton when he came to campus in 1992. "There is an awareness on this campus and a long history of a justice seeking student body. Like these two," Wager said while pointing at the Smith and Carlos statues. "This campus has a history of social awareness, and I would like to see that rekindled. And it's being rekindled tonight."


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