A Homeless Night To Help The Homeless

Want to experience the joys of homelessness -- sleeping under the stars, free dinner -- without any of the risk (or just support the cause of trying to end the problem)?

On November 14 local non-profit SEARCH Homeless Services will host its second annual "SleepOut" event, in which participants organize teams and solicit donations as in a charity marathon. Only instead of working up a sweat, "Sleepers" earn money by spending the night in Sesquicentennial Park.

Sleepers show up at 5 p.m. to collect wristbands, ID badges and sleeping assignments. They can then grab dinner from one of the food tents before the start of the night's entertainment, which will include Clutch, the Rockets' mascot, music and some speakers.

Cops won't kick you awake in the morning, but they'll be around to provide security.

Last year's event drew about 200 people and raised more than $50,000. It was inspired by SEARCH volunteer Noah Rattler, who hoofed it from Houston to Los Angeles over four months to raise homeless awareness by "walking in their shoes".

Thao Costis, SEARCH's executive director, says the experience will hardly mimic homelessness but hopes it can raise some needed funds for the snowballing problem.

SEARCH has seen a 60 percent increase in clients who are first-time homeless -- an alarming trend that was the focus of a Houston Press cover story in March. Costis says between 12 and 15 newly homeless come through SEARCH's doors each day, while private donations have dropped as individuals and companies rein in spending.

SleepOut.org has information on the event and how to help out or organize a team.

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