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Viterbo students experience homelessness, spending night outside



Even though people in La Crosse are working to find shelter for the homeless, the problem still exists.

Tonight, Viterbo students, who are taking a course on homelessness, will spend 12 hours outdoors on campus. It’s the 32nd annual Homelessness Vigil for Professor Tom Thibodeau’s students.

He started the one-night, sleep-out in the 1980s and says it helps those students develop empathy for those who struggle to find shelter.

“One night, to be out in the cold, is to build a level of compassion,” Thibodeau said. “How about those people who have no place to live?”

Beyond just having to experience the hardship, the professor says it will also help them understand as they enter their fields of study.

“Our students, who are going to graduate with degrees in nursing, are going to be working with patients that will sometimes have to discharge and that patient has no place to go and live,” Thibodeau said. “So they’ll experience that.”

Thibodeau noted students used to sleep big cardboard boxes but because recycling has made those boxes less available, he advises students to find other ways to shield themselves from cold during the night out.

After the sleep out, Thibodeau would like to see his students volunteer at the Salvation Army and also spend a night at the warming center in La Crosse.

Here’s Thibodeau’s 2017 Homelessness Vigil.


A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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