San Jose State Students Sleep Out Under Stars in Solidarity With Homeless

Passionate and hearty students slept outside on the campus of San Jose State University on Thursday night - for the 10th year in a row - to bring awareness to the homeless living in Silicon Valley.

Almost two dozen people braved the chilly night in tents during the school's annual "Poverty Under the Stars" event to raise awareness about the estimated 6,600 homeless people living in Santa Clara County - the same place that Google, Facebook, Apple and other tech giants - and their affluent employees - call home.

Rochelle Jackson-Smarr, an organizer of the event, said that she became involved in sleeping outside after she noticed many of her peers and faculty simply walking past homeless people on campus without even paying attention to their plight. She's bittersweet about the fact that the sleepout is in it's 10th year.

"We're in Silicon Valley with all this money flowing in and out. Why can't we help those most in need?" she asked aloud. "I felt we needed to dramatize that."

She added that helping the homeless doesn't even necessarily mean giving money - although that surely helps.

"It doesn't always have to be dollars and cents," she said. "Sometimes it can be sitting here and listening to their stories."

Robert Aguirre, who used to be homeless and live in a massive homeless encampment called "The Jungle" that was torn down in San Jose, said he's glad the awareness is being raised.

"Not all homeless people fit into the stereotype of being lazy or drug addicts," he said.

On Friday, organizers are holding a discussion on income inequality and poverty from 10 a.m. to noon at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library, room 225.

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