WOODRIDGE – More than a dozen youths from the United Methodist Church congregation braved the cold and sacrificed a night of sleep to bring the issue of homelessness to the forefront during Bridge Communities’ annual Sleep Out Saturday on Nov. 1.
Fourteen members of the church’s youth group camped in cardboard boxes and tents just outside the church, 2700 W. 75th St. in Woodridge.
“It was a very cold night,” said Dave Buerstetta, an associate pastor who leads youth ministries at United Methodist. “It’s certainly not a good night of sleep that you get.”
The event, which had more than 75 sleep out sites across DuPage County, raises money for housing and programs for homeless families in the county. It also allows about 1,500 youth and adults who participate across the county get a glimpse of what it might feel like to be homeless by spending the night outside.
It was the third year United Methodist hosted the Sleep Out Saturday event, according to Buerstetta.
“Last year, we heard stories from people who face homelessness, and after that, it was hard not to be motivated to do all we can,” he said. “One woman told her story how she was faced with the decision to leave and save her kids from her abusive husband and be homeless. I can’t imagine being in that situation.”
Thanks to Bridge Communities, a nonprofit organization committed to transforming the lives of homeless families in DuPage County, the woman found a place to stay, Buerstetta said.
According to Bridge Communities, while DuPage County is known as one of the wealthiest counties in the country, there are more than 71,000 residents living in poverty.
Buerstetta said the United Methodist group shared some great reflections after a long, cold night.
“They wanted to be warm but couldn’t get warm. Obviously, we could go inside the building and warm up but that’s not the case for a lot of people. It really humanizes the experience,” he said.
Facts and figures
• Since its first event in 2003, more than 10,000 people have slept out for Sleep Out Saturday to help homeless families, raising more than $1 million.
• Last year alone, Sleep Out Saturday raised more than $130,000 for Bridge Communities’ transitional housing program, which serves more than 120 families annually.
• In DuPage County alone, there are 71,040 (7.8 percent of the county’s population) residents living in poverty.
• A person earning minimum wage would need to work 89 hours per week to afford rent in DuPage County.
Source: Bridge Communities