Most of us have no idea what it means to be homeless. We all know the frustration of eating ramen and having only enough money in our accounts to get through the week, but could you really imagine what it would mean to live on the streets? For many people, the scenario is all too real.
I recently had the opportunity to become “homeless” for an evening, as did many other Simpson students and area people. I knew it would be cold and uncomfortable, but I also thought it would give me a taste of what it meant to sleep on the streets.
I made the trek to Drake stadium to meet up with the Simpson crew late Friday afternoon. After a warm supper, two pairs of pants, three pairs of socks, four shirts and a coat, I was ready to go. We assembled our “home” for the evening, complete with colored duct tape from Wal-Mart. It was pretty cute, as far as cardboard box homes go.
At this point in the evening, I was a bit hot, although I refused to take my layers off–I knew they would be very much appreciated later.
Night came quickly and it began to get colder. We walked around and viewed the different shanty-homes–a robot, Noah’s ark, a replica of the Principal building, and even a barn complete with red duct tape, a small windmill and some hay.
We also met a girl that really had been homeless. She had written her story all over her “home” for the evening. At 15 she ran away from home because her family hadn’t believed she was raped. She lived on the street, in an abandoned Costco, a Wal-Mart, wherever she could find a place to stay. She is a bit older now, and is no longer living on the street. She was able to get out, but others have not been so lucky.
There was entertainment all evening–bands, movies, a poker tournament, karaoke and even Dance, Dance Revolution. We also were sure to take advantage of the chili, pizza, chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate.
And yet, I felt guilty. If I was supposed to be experiencing what it meant to be homeless, why was I receiving free food and entertainment all evening?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not in any way doubting the intentions of the event. As of October 31st, 823 people had signed up for the event, raising over $78,000 for Iowa’s homeless youth, with $850 raised by Simpson students.
I just didn’t feel completely right, enjoying myself while there were people really sleeping outside without the benefits of hot chocolate and soup to keep them warm. I suppose if there wasn’t the entertainment and warm offerings, would people come to really rough it?
Despite the guilt, Reggie’s Sleepout was a wonderful experience. Despite the weather, I was able to get a solid six hours of sleep. I happily added to that number when I returned to my apartment, housing students all too often complain about, after my wakeup call at 6 a.m.
Although my own taste of homelessness wasn’t all too realistic, I can’t imagine what it would mean to sleep outside in the upcoming month–nothing compared to the comfort I found back in my warm bed.