For those wondering about my homeless experience last week, I survived. Barely. It was pretty miserable, but mostly because I got sick and spent the whole night trying not to throw up on my tentmates. Being sick wasn’t part of the plan, but I don’t think the real homeless have that choice.
It was nonetheless a good experience if only because it forced me to understand the reality of being homeless. It’s hard to understand how completely out of options a person is when they have no where for themselves and their kids to sleep. And yeah, that’s the other kicker. More and more families are homeless.
Families Moving Forward said last summer they received 25 requests a month for emergency shelter. Last month they received 300. In the St. Paul schools the number of homeless children is up 30% from last year. By the end of the school year they expect to have 2,000 homeless students—that’s about 5% of the student body (if I did my numbers right, based on 35,000 kids in the St. Paul Public School District). These are just crushing stats. The stories of people behind them would break your heart.
The good news is that 500 people showed up at Cardboard Box City. We raised more than $11,000 to help the homeless (if you’d like, you can still donate to my cause). Thanks for all the support. It’s a start.
That’s why I “pretended” to be homeless. I have a new-found heart for what they’re going through. And sometimes that only happens when you walk a mile in another man’s shoes.
I’m hoping to write about and process this some more (I wrote a 1,200-word piece about my experience today—we’ll see if it gets published, if not I’ll post it here), but I did want to share those initial thoughts.