Learning first-hand about the plight of the homeless | Local News

Most will never experience the hardships of living without a home – however, it is something that could happen to almost anyone.

This was the exact catalyst for the Fortitude Community Outreach’s Night on the Street event, which took place from 5 p.m. Friday to 2 p.m. Saturday outside the St. Paul’s Shelter at 240 S. Dearborn Ave., Kankakee.

The event was designed to give participants a little insight into what homeless people experience at night. These participants chose between setting up a tent or a box to sleep or sleep in their vehicle.

To participate, participants were invited to fundraise before the start of the event. Fortitude director Dawn Broers said in her opening remarks that the original goal was $ 10,000 – which they didn’t know if they could hit.

Fortitude ended up exceeding and doubling the goal, and $ 21,355 was raised before the start of the event. The initial $ 20,000 would be used to cover housing needs as well as a fund to help clients with deposits and the first month’s rent when they work to secure a home. All money raised above this donation mark will go into a capital fund to help meet the goal of developing a new refuge space.

“We are not going to increase [the goal] again, but I’m going to let you know tonight, for the very first time, that we were offered a piece of land in Kankakee for shelter, ”Broers told the crowd on Friday night.

“But, first we need to make sure that this is a piece of land that city council will approve and if so then we can move forward with building a brand new shelter.” on this site.”

Following this announcement, there was a roundtable with representatives from KCCSI, Catholic charities and the Salvation Army – all of whom work with homeless people in the community. Additional speakers throughout the evening included Kankakee County State Attorney Jim Rowe and Sheriff Mike Downey, as well as guests – past and present – from the shelters.

Over the course of Friday evening and Saturday morning, participants were given a menu of challenges to complete that will help them in the immersive experience of roaming, such as cooking an MRE meal, walking around town with a CityPak backpack from the weight carried by most homeless people and take the metro bus. Games and competitions were held throughout the event – including a temperature test to see who had built the warmest sleeping space.

Fortitude volunteers Misty Chouinard and Tiffany Neukomm said the event aimed to show that homelessness is prevalent in more areas than people realize. Neukomm shared that she hopes the event shows that roaming and the work Fortitude does is “not a hidden thing.”

“We are really just trying to raise awareness [guests] in a permanent place – whether it’s their own home or a shelter, ”said Chouinard. “We need a permanent place.”

Melissa Endicott, from Kankakee, stressed that it is important for people to know that this can happen to anyone and that it is important to treat homeless people with kindness. She speaks from experience after being homeless for three years.

“I’ve seen people get pushed around like they’re not even human and it’s wrong… it’s just wrong,” she says.

Endicott reflected on difficult memories of people treating her and her friends badly – to whom she reminds people that it is possible to be both human and kind. However, this is not a time in her life that she would change for anything.

“I found out who I am, what I’m capable of and what the world is about,” she said. “Compassion goes a long way.”

At the end of the event at 2 p.m. Saturday, the amount raised was $ 28,215.

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