CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Hundreds of Eastern Iowans slept in cardboard boxes for a cause on Saturday. Linn County's 7th Annual Sleep Out For the Homeless was held at Veterans Memorial Stadium starting at 5 p.m. Saturday and ending at 6 a.m. on Sunday. The event raised money for several local shelters and organizations who assist the homeless.
Organizers said this provides Eastern Iowans will just a small taste of what it's like without a place to call home. "Even though it's not exactly what it's like to be homeless, it gives them a feel about what it's like to sleep out in the elements," said Ann Hearn an organizer for the event.
The event featured food, entertainment and a silent auction. It worked to raise awareness for those who just have the clothes on their back. "Tonight you can put in your mind that you are going back to your house at the end, but not everyone is so fortunate," said Nathan Longwisch, a participant from Cedar Rapids.
This is the fourth year Longwisch and his family have attended the event. "I like to get them out here and show them how fortunate we are," said Longwisch.
Imagine relying on pieces of cardboard to protect you from rain, snow or high winds. Organizers said it's a scary reality for some people in Linn County. "I haven't done the ones for fiscal year 2012 yet, but in 2011 we had over five thousand people that were served by our local homeless programs here," said Hearn.
"I can't imagine doing it every night, especially in our Iowa winter," said Katelyn Burns-Thompson, a participant from Alburnette. She, along with many others, came in with creative ideas and quickly found out that making stable shelter out of boxes isn't that easy. "I was thinking more of a barn, but I don't know if that's going to happen," she said. "Lots of tape, more tape than cardboard, that's our technique," said Longwisch.
While building and sleeping in the boxes is all part of the fun, participants were there because they're serious about helping those in their community, who need it most. "We do have a problem whether you like to think of it or not, everyone can fall on hard times," said Longwisch.
The event also kicked of The Community Circle of Care's annual blanket drive. For more information on how to help with the cause you can visit: sleepoutforthehomeless.org
The event raised money for The Salvation Army, Waypoint, Foundation 2, Mission of Hope, HACAP, Catholic Worker House, Catherine McAuley Center, and Willis Dady Emergency Shelter. Last year's event raised more than 20 thousand dollars with about 364 community members participating, 194 of them spending the night in cardboard boxes.