It's 7 a.m. on Jan. 2, and you're questioning your New Year's resolution to take the bus to work everyday in an effort to make your life more green. Nevertheless, you throw on your winter gear and prepare for the two-block walk to the bus stop.
The bus is running late and you find yourself cursing the frigid Minnesota air. It's 4 degrees below zero today. En route to work, you decide to get off at the Starbuck's near your office.
As you exit the bus you see someone slumped over by the stop. You can't see his face, but can see hints of a shaggy gray beard. Around him are piles of plastic grocery bags.
You've seen it before, but today you wince as you remember the tingling feeling in your toes as they started to go numb while waiting for the bus to arrive. You ponder giving this man your latte money.
As you begin to reach into your bag to pull out your wallet, a war of compassion versus common sense wages inside your head. You ask yourself if the money is just going to end up in the cash register of the closest liquor store.
You've always thought of the homeless as bums and lazy alcoholics. And because you are unaware of where your donation will end up, you place your wallet back into your bag, and walk to Starbuck's.
"Boxes, check. Table for registration, check. Speakers, check. Homework, need to do." It's 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning and Kirby Montgomery is running through a list of things she needs to do today.
Montgomery is a senior humanities major at The College of St. Scholastica (CSS) and also one of the main organizers of the "Night Without a Home" sleep out, an event that raises awareness about homelessness and poverty in the community.
At 4 p.m. Montgomery heads to the site of the sleep out, which happens to be on the CSS campus. It is the fourth year of this community wide event, and the third year it has been held at CSS.
One of Montgomery's first tasks is to set up the registration table to check participants in and collect donations. All donations go toward Heading Home St. Louis Project Homeless Connect, a county project that hopes to end homelessness through education, volunteering, advocacy, and donations.
Montgomery's next task is to begin setting up boxes that will be the participants' temporary home for the night. Montgomery herself participates in the sleep out, and this year she is doing so with her mother.
Although participants sleep in the manner a homeless person might, the sleep out is not meant to mirror the day-to-day life of a homeless person. It's more of an educational event and a way to publicize the issue of homelessness.
It's more about the speakers at the event and getting the word out to the community. This year, the speakers included homeless youth, a homeless mother with children, a community organizer, and various representatives from Duluth.
After Montgomery had put up signs around campus for the event, she went to the Mitchell Theater to meet actors from Habitat for Humanity.
The actors were putting on a special play to create awareness about homelessness and Montgomery was in charge of putting it together. Although she was stressed because the play had never been rehearsed and needed to be put together in one hour, it was deemed a success.
A popular topic of discussion at the sleep out is the common misconception about homeless people and how they became homeless.
"I think the biggest misconception about homelessness is that homeless people are bums and just refuse to get jobs, when many homeless people actually do work, but have a big family to support. Living is expensive. People have a number of reasons for becoming homeless and it isn't always cut and dry," Montgomery said.
According to a 2009 report published by the National Coalition for the Homeless, there are two main factors that have had considerable impact on the rise of homelessness over the past 25 years: a lack of affordable housing and an increase in poverty.
Other factors that contributed to homelessness were lack of affordable health care, domestic violence, mental illness, and addiction disorders.
At 11 p.m., all the speakers and workshops were finished. At midnight, Montgomery and many others retreated to their humble sleeping quarters for the night.
All in all, the night was a success, raising $4,000 to aid in the fight against homelessness. Although the event didn't earn as much as last year's event, Montgomery still thought it was a success.
"At the end of the day the event is about awareness and if we can get one person to open their eyes to the realities of homelessness, it was worth it," Montgomery said. "People reacted positively to the speakers who were people really living out the nightmare of homelessness. I am just so glad that young people show up for this event. They're the ones who will need to change their attitudes towards those less privileged and will be able to affect change."