More than 1,500 Ready to Sleep Out Saturday for Bridge Communities
In its ninth year, Sleep Out Saturday is the largest fundraiser for Bridge Communities. The nonprofit hopes to raise $130,000.
So far this year, the number of calls Bridge Communities has received from people in need of assistance has surpassed the total number of calls the Glen Ellyn nonprofit received in 2011.
While many of those who call the nonprofit for information do not qualify for the organization’s transitional housing program, the fact that 1,900 calls were made speaks to the difficulties many DuPage County residents are experiencing.
Bridge Communities provides a two-year transitional housing program to about 105 families every year. Housing those families costs about $35 per day, said Jenny Gates, manager of special events for Bridge Communities.
Saturday, the nonprofit will host its biggest fundraiser of the year, Sleep Out Saturday. About 1,500 people and 54 groups — a variety of organizations from Cub Scouts to church groups and 45 individuals, known as Stars, will be participating, she said. Bridge Communities hopes to raise $130,000 from the event.
The number of participants in Sleep Out Saturday has increased, she said.
“I think it’s an indication of the sign of the times, we don’t have to look very far beyond our neighbors to see the economy has impacted people,” Gates said. “And, this is something we can do, we can sleep out, we can raise money and all we all have networks to help raise money. … This is something we are all capable of doing.”
For one night, those who participate experience what it is like to be homeless, sleeping out in the elements. Gates will be sleeping in a car with her two granddaughters who are 9 and 10 years old, she said.
“The 9-year-old is the exact age of the average homeless person in the U.S.,” Gates said.
The event is held in November because it is uncomfortable for those who participate.
“We needed it to be uncomfortable, if it was done in June, July or August, it becomes a camp out opportunity, this is uncomfortable, requires planning, takes some preparation and when you are laying there trying to keep warm, its easier to have your mind still focused on the homeless rather than if its done on a summer evening,” she said.
While the organization received 1,900 calls from those inquiring about its services, the nonprofit’s intake coordinator followed up and conducted initial intakes with 500 people, Gates said.
“Of those 500, we’ve taken in 30 [families], because we don’t have the capacity,” she said. “We serve 100 families. If we doubled our program tomorrow we could not take in everyone.”
This is the ninth year Bridge Communities is hosting Sleep Out Saturday. The event helps people, who may feel they cannot make a difference, realize that it is possible to help one family at a time.
Though the event encourages residents to sleep out for the night, those who may not be able to may make donations to the cause, either donating to a specific group who is participating or just contributing to the cause on the Bridge Communities website.
“The awareness sleep out Saturday brings allows people to say: ‘Wow, I did not realize we had so many families who are without a home,’” Gates said. “The funds go back directly to help them.”
Sleep Out Saturday kicks off at 6:30 p.m. in the parking lot at Bridge Communities, 505 Crescent Blvd. The event will include music from Sounds Abound Entertainment and the road crew from 101.9 WTMX The Mix radio station will be participating.