Why I’m sleeping outside in a cardboard box tonight

Published: Oct. 15, 2020 at 4:10 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Want to sleep outside in a tent? The idea sounds like fun for most, but with the temperatures in the 30′s, the experience will be completely different than a fun night of camping.

A group of Sioux Falls residents is choosing to sleep outside near 8th and Indiana in a cardboard box. The “sleeping out” annual event is at the invitation of directors at The Bishop Dudley Hospitality House. Everyone has their own reasons why they’re doing it. For me, I want to have greater empathy for those who live on our Sioux Falls streets and what it’s like for them, not just one day like my experience, but day after day.

When I drive to the station in the morning, I see some of the same faces walking east on 10th street. My assumption is they’ve just left Bishop Dudley for the day, but I really don’t know that for sure. I see the same woman pushing a cart, she’s very hunched over as she takes more steps in her first hour of the day than I probably do in 24 hours.

As I put together the items for the night, I wonder what it must be like to live this way every day. The Sioux Falls streets are much louder than some expect, so earplugs are on the list. I’ve been told that from others who have been a part of the annual experience.

Foot warmers and hand warmers are in my bag. With the number of layers, I’m planning to wear tonight, my over-stuffed mismatched coats, pants, mitts, and hat will not be for fashion but for warmth.

All of this preparation, along with the previous visits to cover stories at the Bishop Dudley Hospitality house are a reminder of how good my life is. I am spoiled and afraid of how fast I could turn into a wimp at 2:00 AM in the cold.

Friends have cautioned me about safety but honestly, I’m not worried. The organizers have that covered.

Tonight, I will wonder about the man found frozen to death under the 10th street bridge a winter or two ago. I’ll wonder about the woman who died in the stairway of a parking garage downtown.

Every person has a story to tell. Those two people who died in the cold were once helpless babies. What happened in their lives to bring them to such a sad end? I often wonder when I see someone clearly struggling in life about the chain of events that pulled them down. Maybe it was abuse or neglect. Maybe it was an extreme loss of a family member or their job.

What can we do as a society to make a difference? What can I do to say that each and every life matters and because of that something needs to change? These are the things I’ll be pondering tonight in a cold tent.

The Bishop Dudley Hospitality House is a place to come in for a warm cup of coffee, have a meal, do your laundry, make a phone call, and sleep. Connections can be made for resources such as jobs and housing.

Last year, they served over 20 thousand lunches, nearly 10 thousand showers, and 3,200 loads of laundry.

Over 1,700 guests stayed at The Bishop Dudley Hospitality house, and that includes families who can stay together in their own room.

You can help out by donating or becoming a volunteer.

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