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Ryan Johnson, Published October 11 2012

‘Homeless’ volunteers to simulate condition for 30 hours

FARGO – The community’s homeless population is going to balloon Saturday night, but organizers of the seventh annual Homeless and Hungry event say the 30-hour simulation of what it’s like to lack food and shelter could lead to year-round improvements in the lives of the roughly 1,000 Fargo-Moorhead residents who lack these basic necessities each night.

About 600 teens, college students and community members will participate this year, director Erik Hatch said. They’ll start a 30-hour fast Saturday at noon, getting only a few large sheets of cardboard and some tape to build their shelter for the night.

Throughout the day, participants will perform service projects, go door to door seeking donations of food, money and clothing and attend a 7:30 p.m. worship service featuring keynote speaker Shane Claiborne.

At 9:30 p.m. Saturday, they’ll head back to one of the more than 20 host sites in the community for bonfires, discussions and a chance to prepare to spend the night in their boxes.

Hatch said Homeless and Hungry has set a goal of raising $100,000 this year and taking in 30,000 pounds of goods to give out to homeless and low-income residents from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday at Fargo North High School.

The event is more than just another fundraiser, he said.

“After they’ve felt what it’s like to be homeless for a day, we want them to know the names and the faces and the stories,” Hatch said. “We want it to switch from a sympathy type of perspective of saying, ‘I feel sorry for these people,’ to an empathy perspective of ‘I’ve felt what they’ve felt, I know who they are, and that’s why my heart’s broken for them.’ ”

Homeless and Hungry was launched in 2006 at First Lutheran Church in Fargo. Hatch said it became a communitywide event after its first two years, and now relies on hundreds of volunteers and participants from several churches, North Dakota State University and other groups.

In the past six years, it has raised $715,000, collected more than 100,000 pounds of food and assembled about 1,000 fleece blankets to help the less fortunate.

He said beyond those donations to meet immediate needs, the event has instilled its 3,000 participants with a sense of what it’s like to be among the growing homeless population in Fargo-Moorhead.

“The idea is it’s not about changing the world by doing one big event,” Hatch said. “It’s the other 364 days of the year that we’re trying to invest in.”

For more information and a full schedule of events, visit www.home


Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587

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