Sleep Outside Saturday

Aurora resident Steve Smith helped his son Christian build a cardboard home outside Good Shepherd Church to shelter them from a bitter cold evening. For just one night the father and son wanted to experience life without a home.

“It’s an important thing to learn at such a young age so they grow up knowing that this is an issue and know what they can do to solve that problem,” said Smith.

The Smiths joined nearly one hundred other people at the Naperville parish who slept outside in boxes, cars, and tents during “Sleep Outside Saturday.” Nearly 1,500 people took part in the even throughout DuPage County

“It would be horrible to live in these conditions,” said 11-year-old Anneke Phelps. “If they can live in these conditions for a long time, we should be able to put up with it for at least one night.”

The evening kicked off with a rally in Glen Ellyn. The not-for-profit organization, Bridge Communities, hosts the event each year to fight homelessness.

“It’s a hidden issue and you don’t usually see it very much because we think of homeless as the guy sleeping on the park bench,” said Mark Milligan, President and Co-Founder of Bridge Communities. “But the population we work with is families.”

When they emerged from their boxes early Sunday morning, many of the participants for “Sleep Outside Saturday” awoke with a new perspective.

“Can you imagine waking up to your children crying because it’s so cold outside and you have nothing to put over their heads, except for a box and a blanket and your own body heat?” said Kerri Kerr, a mother from Woodridge. “I’ll never forget this experience.”

And neither will I. I also took part in the event, sleeping in my car. I realized exactly how uncomfortable it is to have to sleep in your car and have gained empathy for these families who face many challenges each day while trying just to survive.

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