The cold and rain don’t mix, that’s why planners wanted to push up the homelessness awareness event, Night Without a Home, from November to October. The idea didn’t sit well with event coordinator Tom Wondolkowski, considering the main point of the event is to be homeless for a night.
“I say to folks, ‘When you’re homeless, you don’t get a chance, don’t get to choose’,” said Wondolkowski.
Night Without a Home is annual event in Superior, Wis. that raises donations and awareness for the homeless within the community.
“Homelessness in this area in general isn’t seen a lot,” said Jane Larson, coordinator of prevention services at the Human Development Center (HDC). “People don’t understand that this is an issue.”
The event is held at Superior’s City Park next to the public library on the corner of Tower Ave. and Belknap St. The 24-hour outdoor experience will be held on Nov. 12 through Nov. 13. Around 40 volunteers and representatives from different nonprofits come together to put on the event.
“Basically my Harbor House is the physical agent,” said Barb Certa-Werner, the executive director for the Harbor House Crisis Shelters. “So we are the ones that are responsible for the money part.”
The typical attendance is between 500 and 700 people. Anyone who comes can expect to see a big tent with volunteers ready to serve them some warm soup, hot-dogs, coffee, and hot chocolate. Later in the evening, there is cozy fire where people can gather to fight off the cold.
“Twenty-eight (degrees) in snow is a lot warmer than 34 (degrees) in rain,” said Wondolkowski. “I mean, you can handle the snow, but it’s the excessive rain. Anytime in October or November you get rain, it’s going to be cold.”
Volunteers do their best to get donations, whether it is standing on the side of the street or even going to bars to gather funds.
Because of the raining and freezing weather, money donations took a big hit last year. Money donations in 2009 were around $7,000 and last year they dropped to approximately $5,500. Wondolkowski said he hopes the event brings in between $7,000 or $8,000 this year.
On any given day, Superior has an estimated 600 homeless people seeking help, according to Certa-Werner. The varying definitions of “homelessness” skews the numbers, but to Certa-Werner, not having a permanent address and moving from place to place is her definition of homelessness.
“We have enough people homeless in Douglas County, that it could fill Northern Lights Elementary school,” said Certa-Werner. “If you were to stand there and watch all the students come out one time, that’s the same amount of people that we have homeless.”
In case the weather takes a turn for the worse again and attendance is low, this year’s event is going to have credit card device and access to online donations to make it easier for people to contribute if they cannot make it out.
“A lot of the donations I got last year came before the event even started and after the event,” said Wondolkowski. “We realized we lost out on a ton of donations because we didn’t have that ability, so we’re to try to tap into that.”
The event does more than raise money donations for the homeless in the community. It also brings food, warm clothing, blankets, and sleeping bags.
“Certainly cash is helpful,” said Jane Larson. “We have people who have needs other than food and clothing. It can go toward helping people get whatever they need to get, but we appreciate the food and clothing. There are so many more people using the food shelves.”
Although some of the volunteers don’t stay the whole time, there are still a few who tough it out.
“A majority of the people can make it through the night,” said Certa-Werner. “That’s why we have coffee.”