After leaving an abusive relationship two years ago, Jeanette Jelinek and her son Jaden found themselves without a home.
“I had nowhere to go, nothing. Me and my son, at that point we were sleeping in the car. We slept in the car for four days in the month of December before Christmas,” said Jelinek, a client of Bridge Communities.
Their saving grace, Bridge Communities, who for over two decades has provided free housing and programs to more than 100 homeless families in DuPage County each year.
“These are families who have their children in school, in Naperville schools, DuPage county schools, they have full-time jobs, they’re working but they’re not able to earn that living wage that’s necessary for them to afford affordable housing,” said Chad Pedigo, Special Events Manager for Bridge Communities.
After being accepted into the program, Jeanette and Jaden had a safe place to stay, along with classes and counseling to help them move on from a bad situation.
Jelinek said, “I’m hoping that my son will be proud of me. Right now he doesn’t know everything that happened. But I want him to know how strong his mom was at that point, and I did do it for him.”
To raise awareness for others like Jeanette, Bridge Communities hosts Sleep Out Saturday, where members of the DuPage community spend one night in November sleeping outside.
The annual event brings in funds that go directly to housing and care for DuPage’s homeless.
“There are certain things we take for granted, points of privilege, so by spending the night outside without those comforts, you show solidarity in your community that you support those that don’t have the basic means,” said Pedigo.
Though only one night, the experience of Sleep Out Saturday stays with many participants for a lifetime.
“It’s kind of a harsh kick in the butt because you realize what it is like to live outside for just one night, and that’s just one night where you wake up not feeling your best and you realize people do this night, after night, after night and you realize how grueling this is,” explained Zack Pradel, a previous Sleep Out Saturday participant.
A feeling Jeanette and Jaden won’t have to experience again, thanks to the help of Bridge Communities.
“It’s an amazing organization. I want to thank everyone personally, from the bottom of my heart because if it wasn’t for them I’d still be on the streets and I know that I wouldn’t have everything that I have and I’d probably be struggling for the rest of my life,” said Jelinek.
To donate to Sleep Out Saturday, visit www.sleepoutsaturday.org
Naperville News 17’s Evan Summers reports.
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