GLEN ELLYN, Ill. (CBS) — As many as 2,000 people will experience homelessness for one night in the western suburbs, in an effort to draw attention and raise funds for homeless families.
On Saturday night, children, teens and adults in DuPage County will participate in the Sleep Out Saturday rally at more than 70 sites. Glen Ellyn-based Bridge Communities says the purpose is to raise funds to bring homeless families toward self-sufficiency, but also to give at least a rudimentary understanding of what homelessness is really like.
Some children from St. John the Baptist School in Winfield set up tents and cardboard boxes outside CBS 2 Friday morning, as Bridge Communities case manager Karen Stewart told CBS 2’s Derrick Young what the children have learned.
“I think they’re inconvenienced for one night, and when they go back home, they realize how good they really have it, and their families, and so this is their way of helping out,” she said.
An estimated 1,500 to 2,000 people are expected to participate in Sleep Out Saturday, Stewart said.
“We help homeless families work to self-sufficiency, and we want to make people aware that the new face of homelessness is rally families,” she said.
Sleep Out Saturday events are held monthly, and some participants have left comments about the experience on the Bridge Communities Web site.
“How anyone could sleep on the ground cold and wet, and still get up in the morning and go to work or look for work, I don’t understand how,” a 10-year-old said on the Web site. “It rained last night and soaked through lots of boxes. On rainy nights homeless people have to sleep like all night.”
“I am actually glad it rained, because that way you can see how harsh the weather could be for the homeless. I got about 1 or 2 hours of sleep,” said an 11-year-old. “Imagine if you had to do this every night. You would be so tired when you go to school.”
Sleep Out Saturday in just for one night. But back in February 1991, CBS 2’s Walter Jacobson brought Chicago a first-person account of being homeless for 48 hours in his “Mean Street Diary” project. He hit the streets in disguise with a hidden camera, with just $3 in his pocket.
With the temperature dropping to -11, Jacobson struggled to find food and a place to sleep. He found himself spending an entire night walking the streets, and was turned away at restaurants fine and causal. He was kicked out of Union Station, left to wait in the vestibule at a Chicago Police station, and even refused service at most of the homeless shelters he visited.
“People in the neighborhoods are so cold and hungry tonight that they’re numb,” Jacobson said in his report. “We see them all the time, but we don’t really see them.”
Donations for Sleep Out Saturday are accepted at the Web site for the event, or by texting BRIDGE to 20222.