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Student Veterans, PEACE Connect with Area Homeless

Published: November 07, 2011
UT Student Veterans will host a benefit dinner, and PEACE will offer day of service, Oxfam Hunger Banquet and other events.
UT Student Veterans will host a benefit dinner, and PEACE will offer day of service, Oxfam Hunger Banquet and other events.

Paul Szoldra ’12 served eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps, including time in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2005.

When he was honorably discharged in June 2010, he knew he wanted to get his college degree. Now an entrepreneurship major and vice president of the UT Student Veterans Organization, he is leading an effort to help veterans whose future since serving hasn’t been as bright as his.

On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, the UT Student Veterans Organization will host a charity dinner to benefit Liberty Manor for Veterans, a local nonprofit that helps house and foster self-sufficiency for homeless veterans.

“These guys serve their country, do amazing things and then have a lot of obstacles to readjusting when they come back,” said Szoldra. “It’s tough. It’s really tough.”

The cost of the meal is being donated so proceeds can be divided among the nonprofit and the 40-member student organization. Earlier that day, Szoldra said Marine Corps vehicles will be on campus from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., WUTT will host a concert in Vaughn Courtyard and the organization will be selling red T-shirts and asking the UT community to wear red on Veterans Day.

The PEACE Volunteer Center’s annual Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week picks up where the Student Veterans Organization ends. From Nov. 11-18, PEACE volunteers will be educating their campus community on the issues surrounding hunger and homelessness.

“Homelessness is not understood by a lot of UT students. There are a lot of misconceptions about the issue,” said Keri-Anne Kolodiej ’11, one of the student coordinators for the center. “People think homeless people are lazy or drug addicts, but many are children, families and victims of domestic violence. Our main goal is to raise awareness and stop those negative misconceptions about homelessness.”

More than 17,750 men, women and children are homeless in Hillsborough County on any given night, according to the 2011 Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County’s Homeless Count’s data; 23 percent are children, 51 percent have never been homeless before and of the 65 percent that have some source of income, only 7 percent of those get their income from panhandling while 17 percent are employed.

PEACE events, which are free and open to the public, include the following:

  • One Night without a Home – Friday, Nov. 11, to Saturday, Nov. 12, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. in the Vaughn Courtyard; students spend a night outside and listen to stories from homeless and formerly homeless speakers.
  • Oxfam Hunger Banquet – Monday, Nov. 14, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Grand Salon; a simulation on the unequal distribution of food and resources
  • There’s No Place Like Homeless – Tuesday, Nov. 15, from 6 to 8 p.m.; a simulation of the difficulties homeless people face while trying to break free of the cycle of homelessness.
  • Day of Service – Friday, Nov. 18, from 9 to 11 a.m. at various sites in the community including Feeding America of Tampa Bay, Trinity Café, Hope Children’s Home and Alpha House of Tampa.

“All of our events except the day of service are about education and awareness,” said Kolodiej, a management information systems major. “We hope to finish off the week with a direct service opportunity so that people come away with a better understanding of the issues surrounding hunger and homelessness in our community and with a drive to create change.”

Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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