By Adam Harris
A local charity is encouraging Wacoans to experience a night of being homeless and sleep in a box.
It’s part of Mission Waco’s Box City Sleepout, an event happening tonight to raise awareness about the issue of homelessness in the city.
Jimmy Dorrell, executive director of Mission Waco, said events such as this couldn’t begin to show the trials and tribulations that the homeless experience every day.
“Understanding poverty is more about experiences than cognitive information,” Dorrell said.
He said he hopes people will take the opportunity to see that homeless citizens are not the way that most perceive them.
Waco has a poverty rate of 28.7 percent. That number is more than twice the national rate of 13.3 percent.
Dorrell noted that the Bible advises against “mocking the homeless” and that this isn’t what the event is about. The Box City Sleepout, as well as the 16 poverty simulations sponsored by Mission Waco which attract over a thousand people from throughout the nation, is all about spending time with those less fortunate.
Through events like this, other people have the chance to spend time with the homeless of Waco.
Dorrell said the goal of Mission Waco is to mobilize middle-class Christians into action so they can be better educated about the every-day lives of the homeless.
The Woodlands senior Katie Kozar has participated in Mission Waco poverty simulations in the past.
“I respect that the organization works to empower citizens,” Kozar said. She said Mission Waco doesn’t just give handouts, but they carry out their goal to inform and mobilize people through Christian ideals.
Kozar, who volunteers for various Mission Waco projects, said opportunities such as the sleepout allow people to learn not only from the simulation, but through the interactions with the homeless.
Participants in tonight’s eventcan decorate their box and a prize will be awarded to the owner of the best-decorated box.
The sleepout is set to begin at 8 p.m. at the vacant lot at North Fifth Street and Webster Avenue. The sleepout will at 8 a.m. Saturday.
The weather forecast for tonight shows chances of rain, but it will not change the sleepout’s location. If lightning occurs, however, the event will move under the bridge at the intersection of South Fourth Street and Interstate 35. Donations are appreciated for the event and prizes will be given out to those who raise the most money. Mission Waco asks that participants donate $50, but appreciates anything individuals can give.
Mission Waco will also have the Walk for the Homeless at 8 a.m. Sunday. The walk will begin at the Meyer Center at 1226 Washington Ave.
As a part of the organization’s Shoes for the Homeless, the walk will begin with the presentation of shoes which have already been selected. Shoes for the Homeless allows homeless citizens to pick out a pair of shoes provided by Mission Waco. Organizations such as Compassion Waco and Caritas also helped provide the shoes.
Participants in the walk can also bring a $35 donation and that money will go to providing more shoes for the homeless. After the walk, worship will begin at 10:45 a.m. at the 20th anniversary of Church Under the Bridge service.