Hinsdale teens learn about homelessness through sleepout
Youth group members meet together after their role playing game to take a quiz on poverty and homelessness in the United States. The Union Church group played a life simulation game, later spending the night outdoors. | Jon Langham~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 9, 2012 6:04AM
HINSDALE — Groups slept outside Hinsdale churches Saturday night to experience the harsh conditions homeless people do.
“Good Lord, was it chilly out there,” said Jeremy Hylen, director of youth formation for Union Church of Hinsdale. “I had frost on my tent when I woke up.”
Hylen organized about 30 middle school and high school volunteers and a few adult leaders to sleep outdoors Nov. 3 for Sleep Out Saturday, an annual event to raise money for and awareness of homelessness in DuPage County.
Before going outside for the night, the students played a game that simulated the frustration and hurdles that people with less education or poor English skills, or certain minorities encounter when they try to obtain housing, transportation, medical care and other services.
“It’s a modified game of life,” Hylen said.
The teenagers who portrayed people with no college qualified only for low-paying jobs in the game. A low salary meant that player could not afford a car, nor could they qualify for a mortgage. Because the majority of students in Hinsdale go on to college, they may not realize what an advantage that is, Hylen said.
The players who were illiterate or could not read English could not complete the forms necessary to apply for certain services, Hylen said.
Only three of the kids were able to get through all the stations and complete the game.
Hylen also presented the teenagers with statistics about homelessness, which showed how entire families are homeless and how many military veterans are at risk of becoming homeless.
“That really caught their attention,” Hylen said.