DIXON – It was about 20 degrees last Friday night, and there were people sleeping outside of the Dixon PADS Homeless Shelter. Not because they had to, but because they wanted to.
The One Night Without a Home event was organized by Vanessa White, the shelter’s board president, as a way to raise money for the shelter and raise awareness about homelessness. It was the shelter’s first fundraiser, and when all the proceeds are counted, could bring in more than $8,500, she said.
“I would say, overall, it was highly successful, much better turnout and proceeds than I anticipated for our first year,” White said, adding that about 24 people spent the night. “A lot of people came through for the tours, so the public got a chance to see [the shelter].”
The people sleeping outside had a fire, which was watched and tended all night, warm clothes and a bathroom. After the night, they were able to go home, White said, adding that some even went to sleep in their cars.
But for the nearly 19 residents in the shelter, nights like that, without warm clothes, bathroom or a car, are more than just a one-time affair.
One of the residents, White said, gave some tips on how to stay warm, utilize body heat, and the best ways to sleep in a car.
“It just kind of really touched me,” she said. “Here’s a kid that is 26 years old who has numerous times had to sleep outside. … We only experienced a tenth of what they do.”
PADS will “definitely” have the fundraiser again next year, White said, and the shelter already is working on ideas for a spring fundraiser.
Several board members and local church members will be at the shelter for Thanksgiving. A local church has agreed to make the entire dinner and bring it to the shelter.
Sauk Valley Media reporter Matt Mencarini covers government and happenings in Dixon. He can be reached at email@example.com or at 815-284-2224, ext. 229. Follow him on twitter: @MattMencarini.