The song ‘Homeless’ by Paul Simon and Joseph Shabalala was echoing through the sanctuary at the DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church during the vespers service on the evening of March 21st as forty youth and adults prepared to sleep out in tents, cars and cardboard boxes to raise awareness of homelessness and to raise money to help a family the church sponsors by paying the costs for transitional housing. In fact, this was happening at Unitarian Universalist churches throughout Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri; each church raising money for a shelter or homeless organization in their community.
The group at DuPage UU Church in Naperville had just finished setting up their tents or preparing their cardboard boxes, had a soup line dinner and were now being lead in a prayer for the homeless by Reverend Emmy Lou Belcher. After the vespers service, Director of Religious Education Steve Cooper, led the group in an activity to emphasize the need for people with resources to help provide to those without.
The group then watched segments of a documentary by Naperville local and advocate for homeless children Diane Nilan. The video called ‘My Own Four Walls’ is a montage of interviews with homeless children showing their desire to succeed even with the difficulties given to them in life.The group then gathered around a fire pit outside for conversation and reflection. While the skies were clear and the temperature was in the upper forties to start the evening, the thermometer quickly dipped to about 35 degrees. Every one climbed into their tents or boxes to begin their night of chilled slumber. One family with mom, dad and two daughters aged five and eight slept in the back of their minivan.
Cardboard City was one of many events that has occurred at Unitarian Universalist churches in the Midwest during the past seven months as part of a project called ‘No More Turning Away’ to provide social action, raise awareness and work towards social justice initiatives to help reduce homelessness in each church’s community.
[totals aren't in yet, but we collected around $1500]