CRYSTAL LAKE – Nearly 400 McHenry County residents braved cloudy and windy conditions Saturday to pitch tents and sleep in cardboard homes for an overnight fundraiser meant to bring attention to homelessness.
Pioneer Center for Human Services’ fourth annual “SleepOut for Shelter” was the largest one yet, drawing more than $50,000 in donations to support McHenry County PADS, a division of the Pioneer Center that provides shelter and assistance for area homeless.
Saturday’s main event at Living Waters Lutheran Church in Crystal Lake had residents outside overnight, sleeping in tents, cardboard boxes and cars.
Similar events at locations such as Crystal Lake South High School and Hannah Beardsley Middle School helped Pioneer Center raise record donations for a PADS service that has seen increased demand since the economic recession hit.
“With the downturn in the economy being what it was, I think more people understand that everyday families are being affected by homelessness,” said Christin Kruse, chief development officer for the Pioneer Center.
In the past year, the center saw a dramatic increase in groups needing PADS services, including a 20 percent increase in families seeking shelter and a 26 percent increase in transitional youth.
More than 20 area schools, churches and community groups also helped raise donations for this year’s “SleepOut” event. It featured live music, cookouts, public speakers and a cardboard shelter-making contest.
The increased support from the community is needed for a service that lost roughly 30 percent of its funding this year because of discontinued local and state grants, Kruse said.
She credited the center’s many workers, who met with community groups throughout the year to express the importance of supporting PADS during tough economic times.
“This year, we are most excited about how many schools, how many church groups and how many community organizations are participating,” Kruse said.