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Archive for Saturday, April 7, 2001

Homeless sleepout attracts dozens

Event meant to boost awareness of residents who lack shelter

April 7, 2001

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Braving the threat of spring storms, about 60 people gathered Friday night at Burcham Park many of them homeless to take part in the third annual Homeless Sleepout.

Among them were T.R., 27, and his companion, Jen, 24, camping out of their 1979 Ford van. Neither wanted to give a last name.

"We were here last year," T.R. said.

He has been homeless for about 10 years and Jen for at least five years, they said. They brought their three dogs and drove down to the park to listen to music and eat.

Free food was available at the event. A rock band called Fling provided entertainment.

It was unclear exactly how many of those at the sleepout were homeless, said Melissa Cline, an event organizer.

"They're all intermingled," she said, of the dozens of campers, who had varying degrees of shelter and protection from the elements.

In addition to the homeless and event organizers, others from the neighborhood stopped to watch. Representatives from several Lawrence agencies that work with homeless people were on hand to present information about the issue.

The sleepout, part of Into the Streets awareness campaign, was sponsored by the Center for Community Outreach at Kansas University. Its purpose is to bring awareness to the homeless problem in Lawrence, Cline said.

As for T.R. and Jen, they plan to make their way to Oregon, where they hope to find employment as migrant farmworkers, they said.

"We're going up there as soon as we get enough money to fix the van so it can handle the mountains," T.R. said.

Despite some brief lightning in the distance, the sleepout was well under way at 10 p.m.

"We'll stay here until we have lightning or a tornado warning," Cline said.

Douglas County was under a high wind warning until 3 a.m. today.

Into the Street activities continue into next week.

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