Sleepout fundraiser to help homeless families to still take place, changes made amid COVID-19 pandemic


CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- A sleepout fundraiser for a group that helps homeless families in DuPage County is still on, but there will be changes because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In past years, groups would gather to sleep outside churches and homes as part of Sleep Out Saturday, a fundraiser for Bridge Communities.

"We help families facing homelessness to break that cycle and to get to self-sufficiency," said Bridge Communities CEO Karen Wells.

This year is the 17th annual Sleep Out Saturday, but while some people may get together for a brief time early on Nov. 7, mostly, they’ll be sleeping in their own backyards, because of COVID. The idea is to give people a small taste of what homeless people go through.

Stephanie Engel of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Naperville said, "Our youth are determined to fundraise and sleep out in their back yards and we’ll be getting on Zoom do some of those learning activities."

Engel said members of her youth group were determined to have Sleep Out Saturday despite the coronavirus pandemic.

"Our high schoolers came to me this summer and said, 'What are we going to do about Sleep Out?' and they've been planning and thinking about ways to make it happen. I'm just so excited for them. They're going to host a quiz show and help fundraise for the entire congregation and community."

The church youth director said she and the teens have accounted for the pandemic in their planning.

"We’re going to still try to do an in-person kick-off, limit it to an hour so we’re not exposing each other too long and to get some of that camaraderie going, but then they’re going to go sleep out in their backyard and just log in throughout the night."

Bridge Communities wants participants this year to feel “remotely together”. Sleep Out Saturday is Nov. 7, but Bridge Communities said anyone who wants to take part can sleep outside any night between now and Dec. 5.

There are Sleep Out toolkits available to people who want to participate. The kits offer suggestions on activities for the night and on fundraising.

Bridge Communities CEO Karen Wells said her family has been participating since her children were in third grade and that now they're in college.

"We really implore the community to participate, particularly now in this COVID time where we’ll have an opportunity to do things as a family and do something beyond, obviously, looking at Netflix," she said.

Megan DeAngelis is a Bridge Communities staffer who had once been a homeless single mother of two boys after her now-ex-husband got into financial troubles and left the country. She can't sing enough praises to the organization that helps about 100 homeless families every year.

"Really, really amazing. The motivation, the support, all of this with very little family to be able to be a part of that," she said.