An event designed to bring awareness to what homelessness looks like in Laramie is set for this weekend at LaBonte Park.
The Family Promise Cardboard Box City is set to kick-off at 4:30 p.m. Friday and run through Saturday morning at Feeding Laramie Valley, 968 N. Ninth St.
On Friday afternoon, the public can view a pop-up art show that includes work created by local students. Following the art show, the public is invited to spend the night in LaBonte Park in a tent or a shelter made from found materials. Or, they can sleep overnight in their car.
“We wanted to bring awareness to the fact that there are families struggling in our community,” said Evelyn Edson, executive director of Family Promise of Albany County.
Edson said homelessness in Laramie doesn’t look like it does in big cities, where there might be visible encampments in public areas. In Laramie, many people sleep in their cars, which is less visible.
“That happens year-round no matter what the temperature is, no matter what the weather is,” Edson said.
The goal of Cardboard Box City is to highlight the plight of homeless residents while also creating an event that families can participate in together.
“It gives a little bit of a taste of what some of the families and individuals have to go through on a daily basis,” Edson said.
For campers, the Laramie Soup Kitchen will be donating sack dinners. There will be a campfire all night, with s’mores and outdoor games. Participants can also warm up inside the Feeding Laramie Valley headquarters at the park, which will be open all night.
Participants are invited to make a donation for the overnight portion of the event, with suggested donations starting at $20.
Family Promise began operating about a year ago with the goal of helping families with children attain stability. So far in 2019, the organization has provided 830 bed nights and logged more than 1,800 volunteer hours.
The program works by collaborating with churches and civic groups, which provide temporary housing in their buildings on a weekly rotating basis to participating families.
Volunteers from host congregations cook meals and spend time with families during the evenings, while families attend school and work while based out of a day center, which is located at United Presbyterian Church.
Family Promise also works with families on the verge of homelessness, and a case manager coordinates services with existing agencies to help families with housing, job searches and other needs. The program is intended for families with children younger than 18, and the goal is to help them transition into stability.