CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — For the last ten years, the beginning of February in downtown Champaign has looked the same.
“One Winter Night is a very unique event in the sense that it’s a homelessness simulation, and we understand it is truly a simulation and what our friends on the street deal with on a nightly basis is very, very difficult if they had to be on the street,” says C-U at Home Executive Director Rob Dalhaus.
Each year, hundreds of volunteers spend 12 hours in a cardboard box to experience what it’s like to be outside during the coldest part of winter.
“Imagine like, going through the stress of what’s going on today and not being able to go home and relax,” says Tony Comtois.
He was homeless in the past, but this year, he is a box dweller.
“I got involved, because I’m an ex-homeless guy. And you know, and I believe in what they’re doing. I believe that there’s always more we can do.”
And in the middle of a pandemic, organizers like Rob Daulhaus say canceling was not an option.
“Even in a pandemic, even when it’s you know, super cold. That’s a reality for our friends.”
Instead, they made safety changes.
“We’ve partnered with a couple local businesses downtown to utilize their parking lots this year so that we can spread our boxes out quite a bit,” Dalhaus says.
They’ve also added multiple ways people can get involved including texts, a telethon number, and Venmo.
“We’re really trying to make it as easy as possible for folks to give.”
Volunteers to be box dwellers and sponsors are always needed and even if you don’t want to sleep outside, you can help in other ways.
“The books will be open until February 19th. So, we will have a couple extra weeks as we try to reach that fundraising goal,” says Dalhaus.