Dubuque Sleep Out raises homeless awareness - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque Sleep Out raises homeless awareness

By Lauren Squires

DUBUQUE (KWWL) - "You don't have a house at the end of the night to go home to," said Darrick Okkelberg. As the snow flies across a cold Eastern Iowa Friday -- some people are sleeping outside; raising awareness about homelessness.

While you sit in your warm bed -- many people are choosing to sleep out in the cold. All for those who have no choice but to sleep outside.

It's 35 degrees in downtown Dubuque but it feels like 27. It's hard to be out for a few minutes, let alone the entire night. But dozens of people are camping out at Washington Park to raise awareness about a growing problem.

It's five o'clock on a Friday night, and people are lining up here at the Dubuque Rescue Mission; it's time for dinner. "I've been homeless for about 3 years on and off," said Okkelberg.

Okkelberg is camping out because he has to; he has no home. "The big question mark about what's gonna happen tomorrow. What's gonna happen next week."

That question mark is something hundreds of people in Dubuque face everyday. "We've got people in our shelters. We've got people several different places; under bridges, we've got caves in Dubuque. Anywhere where people can get a place to sleep," said Ashley Schulte of Hillcrest Family Services.

Friday night, more than forty people are choosing to sleep here; cardboard boxes and campfires included. "I don't know what these guys go through on a day to day basis and now we're gonna experience it," said Brandon Horkheimer.

It's Dubuque's Annual Sleep Out, designed to raise money and awareness about an issue that's often silenced in this community. "It can happen to anyone especially with the economy. I think everyday I could be one pay check away from being this person that sleeps under the bridge," said Schulte.

But Okkelberg says sleeping outside for one night, doesn't give you the full experience of being "that" person. "You can get a taste of the cold but I don't think you can get a taste of the experience just by doing it one night," said Okkelberg.

Regardless, it's one cold night, but it's reminding people, especially as winter approaches, that not everyone has a home.

Online reporter: Lauren Squires

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