Iowans in 10 cities across the state are planning to spend a night sleeping in boxes to bring attention to the homeless in the state. Lyle Schwery is the Homeless Programs Coordinator for the state and helps organizers of the "Sleepouts."
Schwery says the sleepouts are events that get people’s attention, and he says they’re not designed to let people see what it is like to be homeless, as he says you can’t do that in one night. Schwery says the events raise awareness and also collect resources to help the homeless.
Last year he says they had over 1,000 people who slept out in a box and raised over $100,000 that goes to a local organization, such as a youth shelter, or homeless shelter. Schwery says they also collected over several tons of food and clothing for the homeless. Schwery says his organization helps get the sleepouts going.
Schwery says the Iowa Council on Homelessness is housed at the Iowa Finance Authority, and they sponsor each sleepout with up to 500 dollars to each of the communities to help with operating expenses or as a donation. Schwery says each community runs the sleepout a little differently.
In Dubuque, they declare the entire month as homeless month and have an event every week. For example, they have a hotdog feed, and all the money raised goes to the local homeless coordinating board. Schwery says the latest report on homeless Iowans showed 19,233 people who sought state assistance.
Schwery says there’s an additional 9,800 that did not seek assistance, that either lived on the street, or doubled up with another family. He says that pushes the homeless number to around 29-thousand — or the population of Mason City. The first sleepouts are scheduled for Des Moines, Cedar Falls and Mason City on November 2nd; November 3rd events are scheduled in Decorah and Marshalltown; November 9th in Dubuque; November 16th in Sioux City and Ottumwa; November 17th in Cedar Rapids, and December 8th in Iowa City.