On Thursday night, Andrel and more than 100 fellow KSU students, staff and faculty simulated the plight of the homeless by sleeping outdoors on cardboard boxes, in sleeping bags and beneath tents during the university's third annual Homelessness Awareness Week.
"I wanted to understand what it's like, what they have to go through," said Andrel, 24. "I kind of wanted to experience it from the civilian side."
A number of events, including a conference and a rally, were held on campus during Homelessness Awareness Week, which concludes today. The two-day sleep out took place in a grassy, quad area of campus near the Public Safety Department building.
Retired KSU professor Lana Wachniak, who taught sociology and criminal justice, established the event. She said many at the university are unaware of the struggles homeless people go through on a daily basis.
"I remember one day, vividly in class, I was talking about homelessness and how prevalent it is," Wachniak recalled. "A student raised her hand and said, 'Dr. Wachniak, we prepare food for the homeless and my church takes it.' I said, 'That's wonderful. What do you talk to them about?' She said, 'I don't talk to them.'"
"That's when I said, 'What can I do as a faculty member to induce empathy, which can lead to social action?'" Wachniak continued. "That's how it started."
The week's events are hosted by KSU's Center for Student Leadership, Adult Learner Programs, Student Life, and Department of Public Safety. More than 20 community organizations have participated, including representatives of the National Coalition for the Homeless, Georgia Alliance To End Homelessness, MUST Ministries, Covenant Community, Travelers Aid Men's Outreach Program, and Center for Family Resources.
On any given night, an estimated 18,000 people in Georgia have no place to call home and are residing in homeless shelters and other temporary places, according to the Georgia Alliance to End Homelessness.
Some students who participated in the sleep-out received course credit for doing so. Others said they simply did it to better understand, if only for one night, what it means to be homeless.
Participants were required to check-in as if they were at a homeless shelter. They also stood in line to receive chili from a Salvation Army mobile unit.
According to the National Weather Service, the low temperature for Thursday night was 52 degrees. A forecast of 45 degrees was expected on Friday night.
In 2009, junior Jay Gonsalves, 20, slept outdoors for two nights, during which temperatures dropped to 32 degrees in rainy weather. Inspired by the experience, he returned to the event this year with a blanket and prepared to sleep on a paved walkway.
During last year's event, he said, "I really felt some feelings I've never felt before, like loneliness that was unbelievable. So it really got me involved."