HINSDALE – Children and adults across DuPage County will be sleeping on the streets this weekend to help them better understand the lives of the area’s homeless population during the annual Sleep Out Saturday. Organizers hope the program will help residents empathize with the condition of homeless people and draw attention to the issue.
This is the 11th year for the event, according to Lisa Doyle, communications manager for Bridge Communities, the main benefactor from the fundraiser. This event is their largest fundraiser of the year.
There are 75 sleep out sites across DuPage and neighboring counties. Participants will sleep in tents, cardboard boxes or cars.
On average, the event brings in $130,000 every year, with about 2,000 people taking part, Doyle said. The event has gotten bigger every year, but so has the population Bridge Communities serves.
During the 2012-13 school year, there were an estimated 1,200 homeless students in DuPage County. That number has increased to 1,600 homeless students this year, according to Doyle.
“There’s definitely more homeless kids, and the need is going up,” Doyle said.
Sleep Out Saturday is held annually during the first weekend in November. Doyle said the date is picked for a good reason.
“We don’t want it to be a fun camping experience. It’s going to be cold,” she said.
The night will have a large kick-off party at 7 p.m. in the Bridge Communities parking lot, 505 Crescent Blvd. The free rally is open to the public and will feature a concert and testimonials from several former clients sharing their success stories with the crowd.
“It’s really kind of a good way to kick off the night and get people excited,” Doyle said.
From there, groups will be bused back to their individual sites for the evening.
One area group getting involved with Sleep Out Saturday is the Union Church of Hinsdale, 137 S. Garfield St.
Director of Youth Ministries Jeremy Hylen said although the camp out will not be taking place at the church, he’s encouraging the kids to spend the night outside in their home’s yards.
“I hope it gives them a little perspective on how lucky they are and how hard it can be when you don’t have adequate places to stay.”
During Sleep Out Saturday, kids will be filling stockings at the church to be donated for homeless teens.
“One of the reasons we [get involved] is to open up the [kids’] world view a little,” Hylen said. “So they see that Hinsdale is not what everyone has in their life and just because you’re cold when you wake up doesn’t make you less of a person.”
Doyle said there are several activities for the participants to do to further enhance the experience of being homeless, including group discussions and reflection periods.
“We hear great feedback every year from the groups and the leaders,” Doyle said.