Night in a Car

Eli Exner, 14, pulls a cap over the head of his brother, Evan, 1, as they prepare to stay the night in their father's van during the Night in a Car homelessness awareness event on Feb. 3, 2017, outside Trinity Lutheran Church, 801 S. Madison St., Bloomington. The second Night in a Car has been scheduled for overnight Feb. 2, 2018, to raise money for Home Sweet Home Ministries' homeless shelter.


BLOOMINGTON — Central Illinoisans may get an idea of what it means to be homeless for just one night, while helping people who are homeless, during a simulation overnight Feb. 2.

The second annual Night in a Car, a Home Sweet Home Ministries' program in partnership with Trinity Lutheran Church, will be 7 p.m. Feb. 2 to 7 a.m. Feb. 3.

Participants are invited to spend the night in their car in the parking lot of Trinity Lutheran, 801 S. Madison St., Bloomington. They will have opportunities to come inside during the night for hot beverages, snacks and homelessness educational sessions.

Each group is encouraged to raise $1,000.

"Our goal is 30 cars, so we are challenging the community to help us to raise $30,000," said Home Sweet Home CEO Mary Ann Pullin. Money raised will be used in daily operations of Home Sweet Home's Billy Shelper homeless shelter, 303 E. Oakland Ave., Bloomington, she said.

"It really opens their eyes," Pullin said of people who participate in Night in a Car. "It makes you think, 'If I was living in a car, how would I charge my phone? Where would I use the bathroom? How would I take care of my kids? Where would I take a shower?'

"Every participant last year said it opened their eyes and many of them are participating again this year," Pullin said.

More than 60 people spent the night in 22 cars last year as the outdoor temperature hovered in the 20-degree range. Representing families, church groups and other organizations, participants raised more than $25,000 for Home Sweet Home's homeless shelter, Pullin said.

About 200 people are homeless in Bloomington-Normal each night, Pullin said. Some stay at Home Sweet Home or at The Salvation Army's Safe Harbor shelter, while others are in tents, outside or in their cars.

To sign up for Night in a Car, go to, click on the "donate to a car" or "sign up your car" buttons and then follow the prompts to join a team or start your own fundraiser.

Home Sweet Home also is in need of volunteers to help to provide security for the event. People interested may visit or

Follow Paul Swiech on Twitter: @pg_swiech


Health Editor

Health Editor for The Pantagraph.

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