LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – On a winter night where snow and ice are coated the streets, a group Viterbo students chose to sleep outside.
It's all in an effort to spread awareness about the homelessness problem in the area and show compassion for people in that situation.
Thursday night a group of 20 students, all part of a homelessness class, participated in the Homelessness Overnight Vigil.
As snow poured over the Viterbo campus, a few students attempted to make a fire.
"It's gonna get pretty cold and a lot of people will be expecting this for heat," said Stephen Trussoni a senior participating in the vigil.
Those glowing embers are the students' only source of warmth tonight.
"(It's) seeing what people who are homeless have to deal with every day and the things we take for granted, and (seeing) just how hard it's been to be somebody who's homeless," Trussoni said.
It's something he's been learning in class all semester. Now Trussoni is experiencing it first-hand.
"Sometimes you learn things in your body that you can never learn in your head, "said Tom Thibodeau, Viterbo's director of servant leadership.
For the past 30 years, Thibodeau has been teaching his students this lesson.
"Each of these students tomorrow are going to try to go to school, they're going to try to think, and your body—you're just so exhausted from fighting the elements in the evening you can't concentrate," he said.
"I'm grateful I only have to do it one night. I couldn't imagine having to do it months on end," said student Abby Bries. She's sleeping in a shelter made of cardboard and tape.
"I think my whole life will like flash through my head. Just like, reevaluate every day of my life and gain a better understanding of how I'm living and what I want to do with my life," she said.
The vigil is shines a light on homelessness; a lesson for students lucky enough to have a home.
This class makes trips to shelters in Milwaukee, the Tomah VA to see their homeless assistance program, among other facilities locally to see the services offered to people in need.
The Viterbo event always takes place in February so students have to brave the elements, Thibodeau said. It's in its 28th year.
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