Homeless supporters will camp out in Tri-Cities this week for a firsthand look at being without a home in winter.
KENNEWICK — Residents of the Tri-Cities can get a peek at what it’s like to be homeless during the winter.
Those wanting to raise awareness about homelessness will camp out Wednesday through Saturday in tents pitched next to Central United Protestant Church in Richland as part of the third annual “Raise Your Tents” event.
And as others pass the corner of Williams Boulevard and Stevens Drive, they will encounter a visual reminder that some local residents lack a home, said Andrew Porter, assistant executive director for the Tri-City Union Gospel Mission.
The mission, the area’s only homeless shelter for men, women and children, is full, he said. Although men haven’t been turned away because of space yet this year, women and children are turned away weekly.
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The Raise Your Tents event raises money and supplies for the mission.
Renting a plot of land for a tent costs $50 and includes a hooded sweatshirt, said Ben Cook of Kennewick, who coordinates the event.
For the past two years, Cook said, more than $17,000 has been raised for the mission, which doesn’t include donations of food, clothing and blankets.
People don’t have to camp out to donate, he said. There is a tent outside the church where people can drop off clothes and food donations for the mission.
Without the mission and the help of other agencies, the only option for some people is to sleep outside, Porter said.
A lot of people end up homeless, and it isn’t always because of drugs or alcohol, Porter said. It can be an injury, illness or any number of things.
“Usually everybody here is somebody’s family member,” he said.
He also cites as an example a family that has been coming to eat at the mission since the father was diagnosed with stomach cancer. The man has undergone surgery and chemotherapy and can no longer work.
By the end of this month, the family will have run through its savings.
The mission is a community asset, Porter said, noting that some communities have no place that provides people in need with showers, clean clothes or a bite to eat.
The mission plans to build a new men’s shelter in Pasco. Porter expects construction to start in fall 2013.
“Everything we do here is supported by the community,” he said.
It’s especially hard to hear that veterans are living on the streets, Cook said.
There were about 453 homeless people in the Tri-Cities on one day last January, including 23 who were sleeping on the street, according to the annual survey overseen by Community Action Connections.