BLOOMINGTON — Central Illinoisans who want an idea of what it means to be homeless for one night, while helping the homeless in Bloomington-Normal, need look no further than their car.
The third annual Night In A Car homelessness simulation will be 6 p.m. Feb. 1 to 7 a.m. Feb. 2 in the parking lot of Trinity Lutheran Church, 801 S. Madison St., Bloomington. The program is a partnership of Home Sweet Home Ministries and Trinity Lutheran.
Participants will spend the night in their cars to shine a light on a hidden aspect of homelessness: that some of the 200 to 250 people who are homeless in Bloomington-Normal each night live in their cars, Home Sweet Home CEO Mary Ann Pullin has said. Others stay at Home Sweet Home or at The Salvation Army's Safe Harbor shelter, while others live in tents, outside or in parking garages.
The event will start with a 6 p.m. community dinner at Trinity Lutheran. Throughout the night, participants will be able to return indoors for hot beverages, snacks and restroom breaks.
Last year, about 100 people — representing families, church groups, businesses and individuals — braved 20-degree temperatures to spend the night in about 40 cars. Each team was given a scenario of a former Home Sweet Home shelter resident to consider. The former residents' names were changed.
Scenarios described how residents came to be homeless and participants were asked to consider the strengths of the former residents and what would need to happen to resolve their homelessness.
Participants are asked to raise $1,000 per car. Last year's event raised more than $47,000 for Home Sweet Home services for homeless people.
Anyone who wishes to register may go to www.nightinacar.org, click on the "Sign Up Here" tab in the upper right and fill out the form.
"We are thrilled this year to see more businesses participating," Ashley Souk, Home Sweet Home donor relations coordinator, said in a prepared statement. She said that Keller Williams Realty has pledged 10 teams and Connect Transit participants will spend the night on a 40-foot bus.
"As momentum continues to build, we look forward to getting even more individuals, including community leaders, and organizations signed up over the next few weeks," Souk said.