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Raising awareness in the bitter cold

by Tom Hasslinger
| November 14, 2010 8:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - Steve Bell is trying it himself.

Friday night, the 64-year-old will be sleeping outside. The weather forecast calls for lows in the 20s, with possible snow flurries.

"The idea," Bell said, "is to bring attention to the problem."

The problem is how many people have to spend the night outdoors, not once, but night after night.

Agencies estimate that up to 2,000 people may be homeless in Kootenai County. The last point in time count tallied 700, but that was just a one-day count on the people they could find in January. It could be far more than the last count, and Bell wants to raise awareness during Homeless and Hunger Awareness Week on how many people have nowhere else to go come nightfall by collecting 2,000 donated sleeping bags.

"I thought, 'my gosh, you know we have to do something,'" Bell said on the idea he came by after learning that his son raised hundreds of blankets for the homeless in Missoula. "I do think this is a caring community, but it's kind of easy to go, 'oh crap, I don't want to think about this'" problem.

Bell will have his sleeping bag, a guitar, flood lights, hot coffee and doughnuts to get him through the night. So far, he's raised around 100 bags. Donations can be dropped off at St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store off Government Way or at the Harding Center at 411 N. 15th St.

But Bell is also looking for people to join him to overnight, starting at 6 p.m. Friday outside the Harding Center.

"I suspect I will get a few people," Bell said. "It's kind of opening the eyes in the community."

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