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Tuesday, July 05, 2022
<p>Clarinda Choice (left), a 29-year-old Santa Fe student leadership and activity specialist, and Jacobi Bedenfield, a 19-year-old Santa Fe agriculture freshman, chat under Santa Fe's "Oak Grove" late Nov. 23, 2015. Choice and Bedenfield were two of the five participants raising awareness for homelessness by camping overnight at the college.</p>

Clarinda Choice (left), a 29-year-old Santa Fe student leadership and activity specialist, and Jacobi Bedenfield, a 19-year-old Santa Fe agriculture freshman, chat under Santa Fe's "Oak Grove" late Nov. 23, 2015. Choice and Bedenfield were two of the five participants raising awareness for homelessness by camping overnight at the college.

In the cold weather early Monday night, three Santa Fe College students and one adviser pitched tents on the Oak Grove to experience, for one night, what it’s like to be homeless.

Santa Fe hosted the event. As of press time, Recruitment and Training Director Benjamin Myers said six to seven people had arrived for the event.

Santa Fe Student Senate Pro-Tempore Matthew Pearson was one of the people who attended. The 24-year-old political science sophomore pitched his tent at about 5:30 p.m., just shortly before the sun fully set.

"It’s already been a humbling experience," Pearson said before the event began.

The event was announced at last week’s Santa Fe Student Senate meeting and advertised on eSantaFe’s homepage. It ran from 6 p.m. Monday to 6 a.m. today.

SG Events Chairman Jacobi Bedenfield said the idea was to let students simulate and experience for one night what it was like to be homeless.

On Saturday, Danny Speagle, a homeless Santa Fe student who gave SG the idea for the event, began a second hunger strike, demanding lawmakers in Tallahassee and Washington better assist disabled, homeless students like himself.

"Wow, that’s crazy," Bedenfield said when he heard about Speagle’s decision to go on a second hunger strike. "That’s why we’re bringing up this issue so we can do something about it."

"If he’s on a hunger strike, I’ll fight with him," Bedenfield said later.

Monday’s event was part of an initiative by Pearson and other SG members to help homeless college students. Pearson said he recently wrote a bill to present to Florida legislatures to have colleges track and report their homeless student populations.

The goal is to put a spotlight on a problem colleges "overlook or don’t know about," Pearson said.

With Speagle’s decision to go on a second hunger strike, Pearson said he would like to extend the event for another night. As of press time, a second event is unconfirmed.

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Contact Hunter Williamson at hwilliamson@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @hunterewilliam

wo months since he ended his first hunger strike, Santa Fe College homeless student Danny Speagle began a second one Saturday.

This time, the 50-year-old computer science senior said he is going to continue until lawmakers in Tallahassee and Washington provide better assistance for disabled, homeless students like himself.

Earlier this semester, Speagle said the state cut his food assistance. He said he’s been denied health care since 2012.

"The minute I lost health care, I lost the ability to continue," he said.

At a downtown Starbucks Monday night, Speagle sat at the counter playing Candy Crush on his HP laptop, with a large, white, Starbucks coffee mug nearby.

He’s living on vitamins, water and coffee now.

Speagle said he has multiple medical conditions: depression, severe panic disorder, ADD, degenerative disk disease, congenital heart disease.

"I’m hurting, I’m hurting everywhere," he said.

He quit his job at UF for now, and he’s failed his classes. He can’t concentrate on his software development because he isn’t getting the medication and food stamps he says he needs.

"If I had medicine and food assistance, I’d be a rockstar," he said.

In August, he met with Santa Fe College President Jackson Sasser to talk about his situation.

Sasser convinced Speagle to start eating again. He had a bowl of fruit that day. But nothing has changed since then, and now he’s demanding something be done.

"I can’t keep going on like this," he said.

- Hunter Williamson

Clarinda Choice (left), a 29-year-old Santa Fe student leadership and activity specialist, and Jacobi Bedenfield, a 19-year-old Santa Fe agriculture freshman, chat under Santa Fe's "Oak Grove" late Nov. 23, 2015. Choice and Bedenfield were two of the five participants raising awareness for homelessness by camping overnight at the college.

Danny

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