Reflections of a One-night Homeless Man

Posted on: October 8th, 2014 by Brad Peterson

   This past Saturday was my second Homeless Simulation and it was wonderful to invite and involve the youth of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Glenwood City to do it with us.  Next year we will be going there for the simulation.  We had 31 youth and adults and it was a very different experience than last year’s simulation in many ways.  One, the kids stayed up a lot more instead of hunkering down in their boxes.  Two, we had more guests or friends of people that came.  Three, less adults than the year before as well.  And four, I got a lot less sleep than the prior year.

   Now that I have done this twice, I have found the hardest thing about the simulation isn’t the cold or even the hunger.  It is not being able to be comfortable.  I was plenty tired enough to go to sleep and yet I couldn’t get comfortable.  I tried all sorts of things and I had even gotten a pillow with my scenario (each participant gets a back with a profile, a card, and a poker chip.  The card and the poker chip can win you extra food, a blanket, or a pillow.  We use it as a way to illustrate the uneven distribution of resources).  No matter what I did, I just couldn’t find a position or way of laying down that would help me get some shut-eye.  Many of the kids said the hardest thing for them was also not being able to get comfortable either.

    The other interesting thing about this year’s group compared to last year’s was the lack of thought in building their shelters.  We don’t give them much instruction hoping that they will learn by trial and error.  Most of the participants didn’t think about the wind or even the position of their shelter in relation to the natural wind break that was the church building.  Even more so, once they got in there they expected to be warm immediately when it takes patience and time to allow body heat to build up in the shelter.  Because of this, many abandoned their shelters early OR the shelter collapsed at the first gust of wind.  Hence, a ton of kids around the fire pit and fire barrel throughout the night.

    Lastly, I want to thank you for your generosity.  So many of you came through with cardboard at the last minute that it really helped us have enough for them to build shelters where we otherwise might not have had enough.  I want to thank all those that stopped to give a dollar or two on their way into church to our “begging” homeless and your free-will donation at the end of the service to go homeless prevention.  Thank you for supporting this event and the way it gives a different experience to our youth so that they might appreciate not only what they have, but to open their hearts and have compassion on those who aren’t as well off.