The Aid for Friends' Homeless Encampment raises awareness for the homeless and money for the shelter. One local family has participated in the encampment for more than five years.
Volunteers at the 13th Annual Aid for Friends' Homeless Encampment set up a temporary cardboard city in Caldwell Park this weekend.
Alec Daniels says, "I like building boxes and hanging out with other kids, and eating donuts."
The Daniels family has been building box shelters at the encampment for a combined 19 years. It's fun and for a good cause.
Darren Daniels says, "Everybody has the chance to get together for a noble cause, which this is, bringing awareness to the homeless situation. We don't want anyone to be out in the cold. We don't anybody to not have shelter."
This noble cause started 13 years ago when the Aid for Friends shelter was in a money bind.
Long-time volunteer Jeffrey Joe says, "When they were really short on money and at risk of shutting down, we [he and members of his church] stepped in and came up with this idea to have people sleep in the park to get a little taste of what it's like to be homeless. And to try to raise funds for them."
Raising funds for the shelter is part of the reason why the Daniels family sleeps in the park every year.
Darren Daniels says, "We want to make sure that they have the money, and the funds, they need to take care of that matter."
The Daniels family, and other volunteers, have people pledge money for the time they spend homeless in the park. The temporary community spends the day together, which soon turns to night.
When the sun goes down, it's time to focus on staying warm.
Angelee Daniels says, "Make sure you wear warm clothes when you go to bed."
Alec Daniels says, "In the morning, your clothes get really, really cold. What I like to do is put my clothes for tomorrow in my sleeping bag and I lay on them so that in the morning they're nice and warm."
For the Daniels family, having to think about basic survival skills brings a new perspective.
Darren Daniels says, "When you have kids it becomes all about them and their well being, and their safety, and having a nice home to have them in, and keeping them warm and safe. That's my goal."
It was chilly Saturday afternoon when volunteers started to set up their cardboard houses. By 8:00 p.m., it was around 40 degrees and just starting to rain. There was a chance of precipitation, including snow, until Sunday morning.
As night slowly turned to day, the rain didn't let up.
Alec Daniels says,"When it's cold outside and you're wet, it's just disgusting."
The relentless rain ended up inside the Daniels' box.
Darren Daniel says, "We ended up having water pouring in on us inside of the box."
Angelee Daniels says, "My pillow was soaked."
Alec Daniels says, "We had to get up at five in the morning and get out and pack all our stuff up."
Encampment leaders say hardships make the encampment even more meaningful.
Jeffrey Joe says, "That's one of the main reasons I come out here: to get some perspective and to re-appreciate what I've got."
For the Daniels family, the encampment turns their focus outward.
Darren Daniels says, "I don't want anybody to go through that, not anybody. Not by themselves, not together, nobody should have to deal with that."
The homeless encampment raised over $15,000 last year for the shelter. Volunteers this year are hoping that after all the pledge money is tallied, it'll surpass the $20,000 mark.