USC students robbed while simulating homeless experience - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

USC students robbed while simulating homeless experience

By Jordan Sandler - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Paul Bowers and Matt Wolfer are seniors at the University of South Carolina. The pair wanted to take part in a unique social experiment by becoming homeless for one week.

On Friday night, they tried out a test run. However, they got more than they bargained for on the test.

"One of the guys pulled out a shotgun," said Bowers.

Bowers and Wolfer say they were robbed shortly before dozing off to sleep underneath a gazebo in the park by the corner of Blossom Street and Pickens.

They expected to experience what a night in the cold would feel like, but what they experienced was much more severe.

"These three guys come in through that gate down there," said Bowers. "When they were in a few feet of the gazebo, one of them said something to the effect of 'What you got?'"

"Weren't quite sure what was going on until we saw the guns and realized more of their intent," said Wolfer.

That's when things quickly spiraled.

"He had it pointed at me at my chest," said Bowers, describing the suspect holding a gun to him. "They're asking for cell phones, wallets, we don't have anything."

"I heard Paul get slapped and then shoved," said Wolfer.

"Matt looked over and he got pistol whipped a couple times," said Bowers.

"At that point, they realized we really didn't have anything so they ran off," said Wolfer.

Since they didn't bring cell phones, it took a while before they were able to call police.

"What we experienced Friday night is something that happens all the time to homeless people," said Bowers.

Despite this cruel encounter, Bowers and Wolfer will go ahead with their plan of spending a whole week on the street with no money and no cell phones.

"We understand that the risk is part of the project," said Wolfer.

They'll start the week with a lesson already on their minds.

"I learned that the homeless really are a lot more vulnerable than we are," said Bowers.

Bowers says he started helping the homeless through his church and now he wants to find out as much as he can. He plans to document his Spring Break experience and then share his insights with homeless organizations and the city of Columbia.

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