Sleepout Saturday: A chilly night sleepover to help the homeless

MILWAUKEE COUNTY (WITI) -- Some in Milwaukee County are fighting to support the homeless by joining their ranks. Imagine a cold Wisconsin winter night, one so frigid the wind literally snaps against your skin. Now imagine that your bed that evening is not a bed at all, but rather a bench or a cardboard box.

"A couple years ago I slept out on, the only thing I had was a jacket you know and it's nothing fun," said a homeless man.

This homeless man says he's been homeless off and on for the last 4 or 5 years. FOX6 News was asked that we not use his name for safety reasons. He says drugs are what helped land him homeless. But he's since chosen a clean life -- and he knows first hand what it feels like to have slept outside.

"Once you wake up it's like it hits you in the face, you know, and it's nothing that makes you feel good you know it makes you want to change," said the homeless man.

Giving people like him a chance at a warm place to sleep is what's motivating a crowd to spend a slightly chilly Saturday night camped out in a Milwaukee County Park.

"This does exist and I have a family and I'm a single mom if I lose my job and I'm not working, what am I going to have? What am I going to do? I'm going to be stuck and I could end up homeless you know and I want to be there to support other people that are in that situation right now," said Angela Aguilar, raising awareness about homelessness.

Milwaukee County Supervisor, Peggy Romo West, is leading the sleep-out in hopes of raising awareness about homelessness -- and to advocate for funding for the Milwaukee Community Homeless Shelter system. She says many of those shelters are barely scraping by, and they're the first point of help for some of this community's neediest members.

"They will evaluate you, they will figure out that you have a mental illness, they will get you plugged in. They'll get you into the medical service, they'll get you on a waiting list for housing, they'll get you food, they'll get you clothing," said West.

While this one homeless man doesn't want his name known, he's not nameless. Nor are the perhaps thousands of other homeless people in the community. Raising awareness on their behalf, is a cause he couldn't pass up.

"I'm just out here tonight just to fight the cause, I mean it makes a difference to me," said the homeless man.

West says on any given night, about 1,500 people are homeless in Milwaukee County. This group will be out in Clarke Square Park through the night into the Sunday morning. They are taking donations of new or gently used clothing to help keep some of the homeless folks in this area warm this winter.

If you'd like to help out, you're welcome to stop by.