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Graphic Designer Goes Homeless in Union Square for Charity

By DNAinfo Staff on August 17, 2010 5:58am  | Updated on August 17, 2010 5:57am

By Yepoka Yeebo

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

UNION SQUARE — A graphic designer will sleep on the streets of Union Square for a week - for the second time - in a bid to raise money for the Food Bank of New York City.

Yusef Ramelize, 33, spent Sunday night, the first evening of his week-long effort, on a cardboard box behind the pillars of the Daryl Roth Theater on Union Square East. He did the same thing in 2009, and raised $3,635 for the Coalition for the Homeless.

This year the designer is collecting donations for the Food Bank on his project's website, "Homeless for One Week." As of Monday, he had raised half of his target of $5,000 for the charity, which supplies roughly 1,000 different programs across the city.

"I wanted to do something about homelessness, and I didn't just want to talk about it," said Ramelize, who usually lives in Ozone Park, Queens. "So I'm making the biggest sacrifice I can."

The food bank can produce fives meals for every dollar Ramelize raises, according to Carol Schneider, spokeswoman for the Food Bank of New York.

"We provide food and services to 1.5 million New Yorkers, so having somebody like Yusef highlight the issues is obviously a very good thing," said Schneider.

"This is a man who's very passionate. Obviously, his style is unique, but he's been successful," she said.

Ramelize, who is a Muslim, will also spend the week fasting from sunrise to sunset for Ramadan, and plans to break his fast at the nearby Islamic Center at New York University.

He will spend his 34th birthday, on Aug. 20, sleeping in the square. He said he chose the location because he hoped to draw strength from the statue of Mohandras "Mahatma" Ghandi on the west side of the park.

Nate, 21, who declined to give his last name, has been homeless in Union Square for three months.

"It's crazy," he said of Ramelize's plan. "It's great that he's doing this for charity, but I wouldn't do this by choice. I don't think many people would."

The graphic designer occasionally handed out flyers explaining what he was doing, but otherwise planned to keep a low profile.

"I don't want to publicize what I'm doing, last year a lot of people took it the wrong way. This is just my personal sacrifice."

Ramelize said the hardest part of the week was being away from his gadgets.

"I'm a tech person, I just got a new Mac and it's really hard being away from it," Ramelize said. "I don't even have my iPhone to check Facebook."

He was realistic about what he hopes to achieve through his effort.

"I'm not doing this thinking I have a solution to end homelessness," he said. "I just want to get people talking about it."