Boston area college students and homeless people will share common ground tonight as part of a "sleepout" at Tuffs University designed to heighten awareness of the plight of the homeless.
The sleep-out will allow students, homeless persons and activists to forge a common understanding and brainstorm for possible solutions to the problem of homelessness, said Kathleen M. Tannian, principle organizer of the event and a sophomore at Tuffs.
"The idea is for homeless people and students to interact and share experience," Tannian said. "There will be an open microphone where volunteer opportunities [as well as] stories of personal activism will be shared."
The sleep-out is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m., with participants spreading bedrolls on the academic quadrangle of Tufts' Medford campus, Tannian said.
Boston University's Community Service Society and Harvard's Phillips Brooks House (PBH) are teaming up to co-sponsor the project, which was organized by Tufts' Leonard Carmichael Society.
According to PBH Homeless Committee chair Alexander Y. Walley '93, PBH decided to publicize the event at Harvard to highlight the activist side of public service.
Walley, who estimates that nearly 100 Harvard students will show up at Tufts, said the sleep-out will provide "an activist element that we don't usually have at PBH. It is much more of making a statement about homelessness."
Despite efforts to attract students with ambivalent feelings toward the homeless community, both Tannian and Walley said they expect the majority of participants to be those already involved in public service.
"Most of the people who will be coming are already active in the homeless service community," said Walley. "At Harvard we are lucky to have so many ways to participate, and I hope this rally will influence more people to get involved."
James R. Stuart, a Harvard Divinity School graduate who coordinates the Russel Chaste Community House in Cambridge, said he will be speaking tonight along with several homeless residents of his shelter.
"Housing is considered to be a commodity rather than a right," Stuart said. "People have to realize that there is a limited amount of wealth out there and that it has to be equally distributed."
Residents of local shelters like St. Francis Shelter and the PBH-run University Lutheran Shelter have been encouraged to attend the sleepout, Tannian said.
Tom P. Boland, a former Tufts graduate student who was himself homeless for two years, will perform at the rally along with street musicians. A long-time activist for the homeless community, Boland said he will speak about preferred policy solutions and self-advocacy for the homeless.
"I hope to help students question stereotypes about homeless people that are implicit in current policy analysis--more specifically that homeless people are psychotic and alcohol or drug addicted."
Tannian said she saw the sleepout as a way to bring back "sixties style" activism to college campuses.
"Many students are distressed that [Tufts'] campus is going away from activism and we want to make this an active success," Tannian said.