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The Journal Gazette

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Andy Bink­ley, right, holds down cardboard while his father, Steve Binkley, both of Fort Wayne, trims it to build a shelter Friday night.

Friday, November 11, 2016 10:02 pm

Nearly 150 experience cold reality of life for homeless

Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette

Andy Binkley of Fort Wayne was cheerful Friday night, looking forward to settling into his small cardboard hut on the eastern edge of the encampment just off Wells Street.

"The cardboard makes it feel a little more makeshift or authentic versus a tent," said Binkley, one of an estimated 150 participants in One Night Without a Home, a camp­out, so to speak, to aid the Rescue Mission and Charis House.

The one-night event featured soup ladled out by volunteers and thick slices of bread donated by Panera Bread, in addition to coffee and hot chocolate. The event will raise about $40,000, said Richard Cummins, executive vice president of operations for Charis House, a woman’s shelter.

Binkley, CFO of Weigand Construction, was bundled up in a warm jacket and hat as many of the others who took their soup to eat in lawn chairs set up outside their small tents. The temperature was expected to drop to 30 degrees overnight.

"I love the Rescue Mission, what they do with the homeless," Binkley said. "The homeless issue is something everyone can rally around."

Binkley had packed his small cardboard cubicle with warmth in mind. He lay Styrofoam on the ground for insulation and then three sleeping bags to lie on for comfort with a fourth one to lie in.

Folks from Signature Construction in Auburn also turned to cardboard and used it creatively. There were two triangular sleeping containers built for one person and created to contain heat effectively, but four or five other Signature employees planned to stay cozy inside a cardboard church with a lighted steeple.

Even though some heat would inevitably rise to the top, there was room enough for five people and that would generate heat, too, said Michelle Stoll, a Signature employee who was spending the night inside the "church."

The night of sleeping outside raises awareness about homelessness, Cummins said, and is followed by a week of activities built around National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week. It is the third consecutive year the night out has been held in Fort Wayne, he said, but not the coldest. Three years ago, temperatures dipped to 14 degrees, Cummins said.

In Fort Wayne, the events planned in the next week are expected to raise about $250,000, Cummins said. The week concludes with a banquet featuring former baseball great Darryl Strawberry and his wife, Tracy, among others, at the Allen County Memorial Coliseum.