Live blogging Sleep Out Saturday 2016 #HomelessNoMore

As I have the last couple years, I’m attempting to live blog this annual event to raise awareness about homelessness in DuPage County — and to raise funds to help neighbors experiencing homelessness. Bridge Communities puts on this event to aid their efforts to end homelessness. 

6:30am The view in the light of day:

3:30am I’m extremely grateful for all the dedicated adult volunteers who love God and love our youth enough to spend the night monitoring our Sleep Out area. 

12:15am everyone is finally in their boxes or tents and settling down to sleep. 

10:00pm Small group discussion post simulation:

-So many ways to become homeless

-so unfair how veteran was treated

-rage! It wasn’t fair! I was first at Section 8 but never got in when everyone else did. I think it was racist. 

-hard to know how much info to share at each spot. Should I tell them I’m 45 yo with mental illness 

-I’m under poverty line but turned away for making too much

-felt frustrating, disappointing getting the run around, felt judged, 

-pens became scarce. Some stole, some hoarded, some shared. 

9:00pm  As we attempted to enter the church building we were met at the door, told to line up, asked to sign in agreeing to some conditions, and our cell phones were collected. 


It was the beginning of a threefold simulation game. First,The church building was our shelter. 


Then, each one received an identity, complete with backstory of how we became homeless. Our task was to find a place to stay for the night. Others played the role of apartment manager or women’s shelter or public housing employee. We had to navigate the various systems trying to gain housing. 



The final portion of the simulation was food distribution. Each of us received an envelope of money with which we could purchase a snack. Turned out not everyone had the same amount. 

8:30pm Couple reflections shared during the bus ride back to church:

It would be helpful to hear more about the programs that the funds raised provide. The mom who shared tonight mentioned some life skills classes, the most interesting of which was “How not to Date a Jerk or Jerkette.” 

Learning about those classes helps our kids make better connection between sleeping out & Bridge Communities. 

We also thought it would be cool to hear from someone who finished the program, say, 5 years ago speak about where they are now. 

8:00pm Couple facts we learned during the rally:

  • In 2015 Bridge helped 131 families 
  • 750 families self supportive after Bridge
  • This is the 13th year for SOS. Almost $2 Million has been raised in that time. 

7:40pm We heard from a few sponsors and Bridge employees, including a nice tribute to one of Bridge’s founders who died two weeks ago. Next,  the emcees read through the list of communities represented by the groups sleeping out. Always an easy crowd-pleaser. 

Finally, we heard from a family who is a Bridge Community client. I think most years we heard from families already finished with the program, so that was different. The mom spoke about losing the home she was in with her three kids and the 6 months it took to get into a Bridge apartment. But what I found most compelling was when the mom shared the terrible anxiety that accompanies not knowing how she would house her children. 
7:15pm In a new twist, a group called Power Brain yoga led some body movements to help keep the blood flowing and have a couple laughs as well. 
7:00pm Next up for musical entertainment and testimony-sharing is Savannah Whitaker, who is the winner of “Rising Stars Singing Competition sponsored by PulseFM at the World Pulse Fest.” I admit I’ve never heard of that competition, but Ms. Whitaker has an amazing voice!

6:30pm Troy helped our bus driver navigate the downtown Glen Ellyn traffic and so we’ve arrived at the Rally! It has to be twice as warm as it has ever been in our 5 years with this event. It’s a little discombobulating, honestly. We’re used to just wearing ever layer ever. Tonight? People are in shorts or t-shirts. So. Weird. 

Anyway, the Rock Out for Sleep Out by School of Rock is in full swing. Or rather in full rock, I suppose. 


Not a huge crowd yet, despite the nice weather. On the plus side, that meant we are here in time to receive a t-shirt. So we’ve got that going for us…which is nice. 

6:00pm  Our final participants arrived at church and we’re on the Rally Bus headed to the, well, to the Rally. We expect to hear music from local student bands and hear testimony from families helped by Bridge Communities’ programs. 

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Building empathy, enabling community

“Stress. It was really stressful having to constantly compare prices and serving sizes. It took a lot longer than when I grocery shop with my mom.”

“I felt like people were watching us and judging us, because we we talking so much about the price of everything and the servings. I didn’t like that.”

In groups of three or four, our youth were assigned a family narrative and then off to Jewel we went where each “family” had to shop for the week on a limited budget, making sure there was enough servings of protein, fruits, veggies and carbs for everyone. The above quotes were more connections being made as we prepare for Sleep Out Saturday this weekend.

SOS has three purposes:

  1. Raise awareness of homelessness in DuPage County.
  2. Raise funds for Bridge Communities so they can continue to provide housing and community for families experiencing homelessness in DuPage.
  3. Creating, for those participating in the event, an experience of solidarity with people experiencing homelessness. That is, building empathy for neighbors in need.

Frankly, we could use your help.

First, we need your prayers. For us, sure, that we have a meaningful experience and reach those three goals. But more importantly, please pray for all who experience homelessness right now. Pray that they find shelter and community. Pray for an end to the causes of homelessness, such as domestic abuse, mental illness, addiction, lack of employment, or severe illness. Pray that unjust systems that keep people poor or undereducated or sick or jobless will end.

Next, be open to what God’s Holy Spirit might have to say to you and to me and to us on Sunday morning when our teenagers share a message to the children born out of SOS. If we look cold and disheveled, well, it’s because we are.

Finally, if you are able, consider making a donation. We’re trying to raise $1000 and could really use some helping getting there.

For super extra bonus points, join us! Come to church and sleep out with us. Or even just on your lawn at home. There’s no age limits on who can participate.