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Archive for Saturday, April 6, 2002

KU-sponsored event puts spotlight on plight of homeless in Lawrence

April 6, 2002

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Sleeping for one night beneath the stars next to the Kansas River doesn't even approximate the experience of Lawrence's homeless.

But organizers of Friday night's Sleepout for Homelessness say they are hoping it opens Kansas University students' eyes to the plight of the city's homeless population.

The campout at Burcham Park, Second and Indiana streets, was part of KU's Center for Community Outreach's Into the Streets Week, an annual week of service and outreach to the community.

"The point is to talk about homelessness. Homeless people are going to be sleeping out in the park with us," said Sarah Hill, co-coordinator of Into the Streets Week. "It's a great opportunity to talk to homeless people, understand what it's like for them, why it's important for Lawrence to recognize the homeless population, what their needs are and whether they're being met by the Lawrence community."

It also was an opportunity to raise money to feed the homeless.

Campers had to collect at least $10 in pledges to participate in the sleepout. Proceeds from the campout and two fund-raisers conducted earlier in the week will benefit Jubilee Cafe, a restaurant-style food kitchen that serves free breakfast two mornings each week to the homeless and needy in Lawrence.

This year's activities raised a combined $1,200, about the same as last year, organizers said.

"I really think it's kind of a humbling experience," said Ashley Stallbaumer, an Overland Park freshman and cafe volunteer who intended to bundle up in a few blankets and spend the night on a picnic table in the park.

She and the 40-odd other campers, planned to stay until 6:30 a.m. today.

The Draft, a local band, provided entertainment for campers, and members of the Lawrence homeless community later talked about their experiences on the streets and how they ended up there.

Maggie Beedles, a Lawrence junior and Center for Community Outreach financial director, said the annual event's name had been changed from the Homeless Sleepout to Sleepout for Homelessness because the previous name implied campers were trying to simulate homelessness.

"There's no way, in one night, we could simulate homelessness," she said. "It's just trying to open our eyes to what homelessness is all about."

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