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Sleep Out for homeless today

Mission Change founders Todd and LaDonna Urick hope to raise awareness for the plight of homeless people at the fourth annual Mission Change Sleep Out at the Albany Mall field across from Outback Restaurant. The event begins at 7 p.m. today, and the Uricks urge attendees to dress in warm clothing.

Mission Change founders Todd and LaDonna Urick hope to raise awareness for the plight of homeless people at the fourth annual Mission Change Sleep Out at the Albany Mall field across from Outback Restaurant. The event begins at 7 p.m. today, and the Uricks urge attendees to dress in warm clothing.

ALBANY — It’s been a hard day. You’re worn out, frustrated, disappointed or disturbed. Whatever it is you’ve been doing, you’ve done enough already.

“Hey, I’m going home,” you say to the others. “See you tomorrow.”

But what if you have nowhere to go, or if it’s only a space between two bushes with yesterday’s newspaper for a blanket?

According to LaDonna Urick, director and co-founder of Mission:Change in Albany, some 400 people in Albany go home to alleyways or parks.

“Entire families live for months at time in their cars,” Urick said, “with no running water, no kitchen or bathroom facilities.”

For the fourth straight year, Mission:Change and its partners are hosting their Sleep Out event, designed to bring attention to the plight of the area’s homeless population. According to Urick, this year’s event will be held this today at the Albany Mall field “right across from Outback.” Urick said the gate will be open at 6:30 p.m. with the event itself beginning at 7 p.m.

No fancy restaurants will be catering this affair, but count on plenty of hot soup, coffee and hot chocolate, provided by the Salvation Army and its mobile canteen.

“We encourage everyone to come,” Urick said. “You don’t have to sleep, and you can leave whenever you like.”

There will be speakers from the Mission:Change partners, Urick said, including Capt. Doug McClure from The Salvation Army, Liz Dixon with Graceway and Jim Case, the new director of Second Harvest Food Bank.

Musical entertainment scheduled for the event include True Blue City, starting at 7 p.m, followed by Gabriel & The Rock Him Crew and Highway 55.

Urick said that donations of “as much as you can spare” are requested, with the proceeds going toward providing needed services and items for the homeless. She added that no one would be turned away for lack of a donation.

“Anything you want to bring is all right,” Urick said. “Just bundle up, because the forecast is for 36 degrees. Sleeping bags are good if you have one and so are tents this year.”

Urick suggested that in order to really get the feel for homelessness, attendees could provide their own cardboard boxes as their portable shelters.

“You can get one at Lowe’s or Home Depot,” Urick said. “Any place that sells refrigerators. Just ask for the biggest box they have.”

According to Urick, the staff at many such stores are aware of the event from past years and will set aside the boxes with a personal visit or a phone call.”

“We just think its a good idea for members of the community to have a chance to get down into those deep dark places where other people stay, then walk with them out of poverty.” Urick said. “Sometimes it changes a person a little when they understand what other are suffering.”

Urick and her organization say that donations and contributions make it possible to provide needed items and services for the area homeless. The Salvation Army often doesn’t have facilities for homeless to stay. Some of the indigent refuse to stay there even when there is a space, according to Urick because the closeness of sleepers, one to another, fosters theft and sometimes fights among them.

Urick said the event brought more than 140 sleepers last year, with many more staying part of the night. For those who can’t attend the event, Urick asks they make a donation to the cause.

“We have a ‘needs list’,” Urick said. “Some of the items we really need are hygiene products, sheet sets, toilet paper, coffee and laundry detergent.”

Urick said a more complete list could be found by going to the Mission:Change website at www.missionchange.com and clicking needs list link.

Partnering with Mission:Change for the Sleep Out event are the Albany Salvation Army and A Place for Hope, the Albany Rescue Mission and Second Harvest Food Bank of Southwest Georgia.