College student lives among Lakeland's homelessSoutheastern University student Brian Seeley, right, sits with his friend Donna Leslie outside a day labor facility. Leslie didn't get work that day, and says it's hard for women to get day labor.
After his classes at Southeastern University ended in May, Brian Seeley began living on the streets among the homeless. He's not doing it as a project or as part of a program, although Southeastern is allowing the experience to be counted as a summer internship. He's doing it, he said, just to show solidarity with people he has come to know over the past couple of years.
"It doesn't parallel being homeless at all. The emotions are not the same. I'm not pretending to be homeless. I'm being present with my homeless friends as they walk through it," he said.
Most days, Seeley follows the kind of hand-to-mouth existence that is a way of life for the homeless - looking for meals, wandering around the vicinity, congregating with others in the same circumstances, seeking shelter when it's hot or there's a thunderstorm.
Seeley makes it clear that what he is doing this summer is not just a personal pilgrimage. He has responsibilities, working one day a week at Tri-County Human Services in Bartow, helping with admissions and group therapy in the detox program.
"I thought I was going to give a lot, but I've received more than I've given," he said.
Seeley said he would like to dispel stereotypes about the homeless and get people to see them on an individual level.
"No one wants to be homeless. You look at a guy drinking and say, 'He just wants to do that all day.' But it might be that he's hopeless and turned to that," he said. "It's sad to get treated like a second-class citizen because of the poor circumstances you find yourselves in."
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