Officials Sleep in Park to Raise Money for Homeless

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GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) -- Marshall County elected officials and community leaders spent Saturday night without a home or permanent shelter in a fundraiser for the homeless.

One of the volunteers, district attorney Steve Marshall, said they raised more than $30,000 in the event organized by the Marshall County Homeless Ministries Board.

"Unlike big cities, our homeless for the most part are invisible, they're not sitting out on street corner, they're not out under bridges, and so people are unaware there is a problem in Marshall County for the most part," board president Shirley Chupp said.

Fundraising began in October and continued through the overnight stay at Civitan Park, where participants had to raise certain levels of money to earn.

A pillow required $500, a blanket $1,000, and the luxury levels continued to increase by $500 for items such as sleeping bags and tents.

Participants worked in teams according to their towns, and any team that brought in $5,000 got to sleep across the street inside the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany.

"People have been very generous as far as giving money, so I've got the tent behind me with a nice sleeping bag, but at the same time, we've got folks that are not going to have similar comfort, even those basic necessities," Marshall said.

Other participants included the newly-sworn in mayors of Arab and Guntersville, Bob Joslin and Leigh Dollar, respectively, state senator Clay Scofield, Marshall County Commission Chairman James Hutcheson, judges Howard Hawk and Shannon Mitchell.

"Just for one night just to be able to say that I'm going to walk away from what I've known in my home to be able to try to make a difference for somebody else," Marshall said.

Chupp said it was easy to get people to participate.

"Most people are very supportive of the cause and so they were very excited," she said.

"They have been on board and have been working real hard."


Chupp said Marshall County Home Place received 125 applications last year, requesting assistance for 295 people.  The service helped 14.

She said Stepping Stone Ministries is currently at capacity with 26 people.

"It's an issue for everybody," Arab mayor Bob Joslin said.

"One thing that's really sad is we've got veterans that are homeless, and this is Veteran's Day weekend, and that's really appalling that we have veterans on the street," he said.

The Marshall County Homeless Ministry Board is coordinating local churches in a program called "Room in the Inn", based on a model started in Nashville.

Homeless people in the community will be assigned a designated pick-up spot where vans will take them to the church that's hosting for the night.

"We're hoping to start with 12 to 15 a night, but as we build momentum we'd like to have multiple sites going on each night with 12 to 15 people at each," Chupp said.

"We're just really glad that we are getting some awareness."

There are already 10 churches signed up and they hope to get at least 30 involved.

That way each would offer shelter one night a month, or more if they are willing.