7th annual Sleep Out Saturday

November 6, 2010 9:15:52 AM PDT
Local youth will sleep out Saturday to raise funds for homeless people in DuPage County. (News Release) For the 7th year in a row, an estimated 1,500 DuPage County teens and young adults will sleep outside during "Sleep Out Saturday", a November 6 fundraiser that also serves as a community "eye-opener" for homelessness. Groups of teens, individuals and families will sleep in tents, boxes or cars to raise money for Bridge Communities, an organization that provides housing and other services for homeless families in DuPage County. The all-night outdoor sleep-over will be held in hundreds of backyards, parking lots and parks across the county.

Last year's event raised more than $100,000 for Bridge Communities' programs, which includes a two-year transitional housing program for families, life-skills mentoring, an auto program, financial counseling and employment training. "Sleep Out Saturday" will kick off with an outdoor rally, November 6, from 6:30-8 p.m. at Bridge Communities, 505 Crescent Blvd. in Glen Ellyn. It will feature entertainment (including popular local band "Flipside"), an interactive game show and testimonials from formerly homeless families (graduates of and/or participants in the Bridge Communities program.)

Many, including "sleepers" and event supporters, are surprised to learn that there is a homelessness issue in DuPage County. While DuPage has the second highest median income in the Chicago area and one of the highest in the state, the unemployment rate here has more than doubled since December 2008. The average age of a homeless person in DuPage is eight. And, during a One Night survey conducted in January 2009, there were nearly 700 homeless adults and children. These startling statistics are why Bridge Communities wants west suburban residents to wake up to the issue of homelessness right here in DuPage and experience firsthand what it's like to be homeless.

"Homeless families can look just like our next door neighbors," explains Bridge Communities executive director Joyce Hothan. "We are sometimes the only hope for ordinary, low to moderate income families who were just one paycheck away from losing their home."

The money raised during "Sleep Out Saturday" is even more important during this tough economy. With clients having an even harder time staying employed and making ends meet, Bridge Communities has increased the support it provides to them. Starting last year, Bridge Communities increased the emergency funding allotment and childcare subsidy, intensified employment training and provided a computer and wireless internet service for each family in the program.

New this year: a "Text to Give" program. Donors can send a text to 20222 and type "Bridge" to donate $10.

Bridge Communities, a 22-year-old not-for-profit, serves more than 100 needy families annually in their transitional housing and shared-equity homeownership programs. Through its transitional housing program, each family is paired with a faith-based or community-based organization that provides a mentor team and a $10,000 annual commitment to share the cost of the family's housing and services. Within two years, families are generally able to cross the bridge from homelessness to self-sufficiency. Founded in 1988, Bridge Communities is DuPage County's oldest and largest provider of transitional housing for homeless families. The non-profit organization also offers a network of services such as mentoring, career coaching and counseling, job training, tutoring and transportation.

For more information on Sleep Out Saturday, to participate, or to sponsor a "sleeper", call (630) 545-0610 or go to sleepoutsaturday.org


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