Hundreds "Sleep Out for the Homeless" in eastern Iowa - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Hundreds "Sleep Out for the Homeless" in eastern Iowa

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CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) -

Some eastern Iowans are finding out homelessness is not about people sleeping on the streets,  but a problem that's often misunderstood.

Vanessa Hoyle, an Alburnett High School student, is just one of more than 100 volunteers trying to end homelessness by building shelters out of cardboard boxes.

"This isn't even a glimpse of what they have to go through," said Hoyle. 

Although Hoyle and her friends have a home, they wanted to experience what it's like to sleep on the streets.

"I wanted to put myself in their shoes and see how it is and how they live," said high school student Destiny Hawkins. "I have it so easy -- I have a home and everything."

More than 5,000 people were served by local homeless assistance programs just last year, and about half of those served were children.

In an attempt to bring awareness and get more people involved, the Linn County Veteran Affairs held its 8th annual Sleep Out for Homeless.

Hiawatha resident Patricia Swentik says she's glad for the return of the Sleep Out event, because the homeless problem needs to be addressed. 

"People need to know that we have a homeless problem right here in Cedar Rapids," said Swentik. "We can't be afraid of people and walk by and say 'it's none of my business' -- we have to get involved."

"Fifty-two percent of the people that are homeless have jobs -- they still are working, but because of the income and low income that they make, they're unable to make it," said co-chair Brian Gradoville. "Our goal is to end this. We need to end the homelessness in Linn County, and take a real strong look at that."

All the money raised from Saturday's Sleep Out will help fund nine homeless shelters in Linn County.

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