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City homeless advocates camp out for their cause

November 18, 2002|BY RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Sleeping in the cold with only a cardboard box for shelter is nothing new for "Shaky" and his friend, Carol. Both said they are homeless and often sleep where and when they can.

On good nights, they take refuge in one of the seven homeless and emergency shelters in Washington County.

They had company Friday night at Hagerstown City Park when a group of about 20 advocates for the homeless set up cardboard appliance boxes and crawled in for the night.

Shaky and his friend planned to spend the night with the advocates as their contribution to helping others like themselves, Shaky said.

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The Eighth Annual Grate American Sleepout, as the event is called, is sponsored by the Washington County Task Force on the Homeless, the Washington County Community Action program and REACH - the Religious Effort to Assist and Care for Homeless - among others.

Volunteers from those and other advocacy groups showed up to sleep in the boxes as a way of bringing attention to the plight of the homeless, said Dave Jordan, a member of the task force.

Volunteers said a one-day survey conducted in Washington County in March showed there were 100 men, 41 women and 54 children living in homeless situations.

Robert Shade, who roams the streets of Hagerstown for REACH searching for homeless people, said he found an additional 40 men who had been missed by the survey.

Clair Seibert, 38, bundled up in a quilted jacket and heavy wool scarf, was one of those who was sleeping in a box on a night when temperatures were expected to dip into the low 30s, according to local weather observers. Seibert is a coordinator for one of the county's homeless shelters.

"I'm doing this because I want to find out what it's like to stay out in the cold all night," she said.

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