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posted: 12/5/2012 4:10 AM

Sleep Out heightens homeless awareness

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Sleep Out heightens homeless awareness

Thank you to the 1,500 wonderful people who on Nov. 3 made a statement about homelessness by sleeping out in tents, boxes and cars to raise awareness of the growing problem of homeless families during Sleep Out Saturday.

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People from faith-based, community, corporate and family groups braved a cold night and experienced homelessness firsthand. After a service of reflection, muffins and coffee, we all returned to our warm homes. For me and my family and our 1,500 fellow "sleepers," it was over. Not so for the real homeless. Just another cold day waiting for the next homeless shelter to open, another night in the car or, if lucky enough, a night on a friend's couch or in a cheap motel room.

Homelessness in DuPage County is a hidden epidemic. Families, if lucky, will shuffle from house to house of family members and friends, as the parents try to work and the children try to keep up in school. Often, a family will sleep in their car or bounce night after night through temporary shelters. There are an estimated 48,000 homeless people in DuPage County, the majority children. The average age of a homeless person in DuPage is just 8 years old.

Bridge Communities, which sponsors Sleep Out Saturday, thanks the generous corporate sponsors and the kindness and generosity of the donors who supported their friends and loved ones as we slept outside on that cold November night. Our theme this year was "Imagine." For one night, we did imagine no possessions; we imagined a life of fear and uncertainty. And as the song says, "We hope someday you'll join us."

You can learn more about Bridge Communities and Sleep Out Saturday at www.bridgecommunities.org.

Jennie Gates

Special events manager

Bridge Communities

Glen Ellyn

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