So last Thursday I spent the night outside. It was part of Cardboard Box City, an event designed to raise money and support for homeless shelters in the Twin Cities. We raise money for two emergency overflow shelters for families, Families Moving Forward and Project Home, and then sleep outside to get a tiny taste of what homelessness is really like.
Thursday morning it snowed. The overnight low was 35 with a 30-40% chance of precipitation. This year it was moist, but the snow and rain mostly held off. Last year I didn’t dress warmly enough (I foolishly packed lightly) so this year I beat the cold with seven layers on top and four on bottom. Last year when I did this I got sick and had an awful night. This year I managed to stay healthy, but I still didn’t have fun.
Homelessness sucks. There’s no putting a pretty spin on it. After my tiny glimpse of homeless life I got to go home. All my needs were met and I didn’t have to worry about my next meal, my next place to stay, what would happen to my kids or even deal with the emotional crisis that goes along with losing everything.
Continue reading Homeless Again: Cardboard Box City 2009 Recap
Last year I particpated in Cardboard Box City, an event where nearly 500 people slept outside at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds and raised $11,000 to help the homeless. It sucked. I ended up getting sick in the middle of the night and having no other option but to stick it out. Basically I had a much more real homeless experience than I planned on, and it’s not any fun.
I’m doing it again this year on Thursday, Oct. 15.
Honestly, I don’t really want to. But nobody wants to be homeless. This is a small act of solidarity with the homeless to experience the tiniest taste of what they go through every day. And a chance to do some good. We’ll be raising money for the event to support Families Moving Forward and Project Home, two organizations that provide emergency shelters in the Twin Cities.
That kind of shelter is in high demand with the continuing recession. Last month I talked with a number of homeless people in downtown St. Paul with homeless advocate Mark Horvath. It was amazing and heart-breaking to hear the stories of people who had lost jobs or had one calamity too many and ended up on the street or living in their car. Most of them had become homeless in the past few months. The stereotypical view of the chronically homeless is not the norm. The majority of the people Project Home helps are children.
You can help the homeless in the Twin Cities by making a donation.
- Homeless for a Night – I’ve set up a cause on Facebook that lets you donate and recruit your friends to the cause. It’s a great way to spread the word. (There is a minimum donation of $10 on this site.)
- Donate Online – If you’re not Facebook savvy, you can use this online form and donate directly to the St. Paul Council of Churches (the nonprofit behind Project Home). The online form is a little convoluted, but on step 2 the 5th item lets you designate your gift to Project Home. Next you can note that your gift is for “Cardboard Box City.”
- Donate w/ PayPal – You can make a donation directly to me using PayPal and I’ll pass the funds on to Cardboard Box City. This method would not be tax deductible.
- Donate by Check – Make your check payable to “FMF” or “SPACC-Project Home” and send it to me (contact me for my mailing address). This method is tax deductible.
- Donate in Person – If you’re in the Twin Cities you can just give me cash or check (made payable to “FMF” or “SPACC-Project Home”). This is also tax deductible, assuming you give me your address so they can mail you a receipt.
I hope you’ll consider making a donation and supporting my sleep out for homelessness.
If you want to learn more about homelessness, spend some time with Mark Horvath on InvisiblePeople.tv as he talks with the homeless and shares their stories. You can also check out 10 ways you can help the homeless for specific ways you can help (the advice on responding to panhandling is especially helpful).