Homelessness fundraiser will ask donors to sleep in boxes

04/04/14 Janelle Irwin
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Tags: Box Car City, homeless, Family Promise of Greater Brandon, Homelessness

A non-profit nearly four years in the making is raising money this weekend by having donors spend the night in a box this Saturday night at Nativity Catholic Church. Family Promise of Greater Brandon began organizing in 2010 and is about to finally open its doors to families in need next month.

The chapter is an off shoot of a nationwide coalition of faith-based groups that started in New Jersey in 1986. Deborah Humphrey is the board president.

"Basically what happens is you come to the event and you build yourself a home out of cardboard boxes. We have some places available where you can get refrigerator boxes, those are popular to use. You actually will spend the night in that box. We have some other events going on with it. We're planning to have a bean bag toss and volleyball. We're having some local () bands from the area come and play for a couple of hours. There's going to be a dinner. The dinner really is fashioned after what you might receive if you were at a shelter. It's a bag lunch but it's for dinner. You're going to get a sandwich, probably some fruit, that kind of thing. And then it'll be lights out at around 10 o'clock. And then you'll be up early because that would be what would happen if you were at a traditional shelter. You'd have to be up and move all your things out for the day and be gone from the shelter."

Most of us spend our lives trying to avoid sleeping in boxes. I know that I tell my children that they have to do well in school to avoid sleeping in boxes. So why would anybody want to do this?

"Actually this event is done in several other of our affiliates across the country and it can be fun. Kids come out and they decorate the boxes. We try to build different street lanes with the boxes, it's set up like a little city. It's just fun to do for the evening. It gives you a little more awareness of what a homeless family might encounter if they are actually sleeping in a box or some actually sleep in their cars so that's another option for Saturday. If you're not of a mind to sleep in a box you could sleep in your car as well."

How much do you hope to raise this weekend?

"We're hoping we raise about $15,000."

With those funds what are some of the services that you provide in the community for individuals who are in a tough situation?

"Our affiliate deals with homeless families so those funds will go for multiple different things. Our organization actually opens to families on May 3rd and what will happen is once accepted in the program they're going to work with a case manager. Some of those funds will go for supplies that deal with things that families might need. Families that very often enter one of these programs with really virtually nothing. They might need, choose anything. They might need clothing, they might need something as simple as paper and pencil to be able to try to create a resume to go out and do their job searching. We are looking to actually buy 2 computers for our day center so that the families would have a computer to do their job searching and resume creating, looking for job fairs, those kind of things."

How is this different than other services that are currently provided in the county?

"Our organization deals with homeless families. There are other services available within the county. Typically when a family goes to one of those services they'll be split up. So our niche really is that we allow the family to stay together."

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