BLOOMINGTON, IL.,
10
February
2021
|
07:14 AM
America/Chicago

Facing a cold reality

A night in a car sheds some light on the problem of homelessness

Samantha didn’t know what to do. Her family had recently moved to a new city for her husband’s work. She was a stay-at-home mom with three kids.

Shortly after their arrival, her husband unexpectedly died. The couple had no life insurance and very little in savings. Samantha began looking for work, but the pandemic had shut down many of her options.

Desperate to take care of her family, Samantha rung up more and more debt. With her cards maxed out and depleted saving, she and her two kids were evicted from their home. Without family or friends to help support them, Samantha was facing a reality that never even occurred to her just a few short months ago. She and her three children were homeless.

Amy Harris and her daughter Mali
Kimberly's Instagram post raising awareness for homelessness.

Stories like Samantha’s were shared with participants of the annual Night in a Car event, a community outreach program in Bloomington, Ill., where volunteers slept in their cars to raise money for a local homeless shelter. The event is also designed to dispel some of the many misconceptions about homelessness in America.

Participants gather in a parking lot in the dead of winter and spend the night in their cars to experience firsthand the inhumane and often brutal conditions many Americans face.

 “It could never happen to me.”

“This is one of the things a lot of people think about homelessness,” said Kimberly Kernosky, a State Farm® employee and three-time Night in the Car participant. “They have no idea how wrong they are.”

A staggering 63% of all Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Six out of 10 of us are one unexpected event away from financial disaster. And if there’s anything we’ve learned from dealing with the pandemic, it’s that the “unexpected” is becoming the norm.

“The reality is that you never know what’s going to happen. Nobody plans on being homeless, and nobody should think that they’re immune, because they’re not,” said Kimberly.

This year, Kimberly was joined in the car by Kim Brockman and Rachael Lund, two other State Farm employees. Like Kimberly, Kim and Rachael also found some of what they thought they knew about homelessness was incorrect.

“Homelessness is only a problem in big cities”

Amy Harris and her daughter Mali
Kimberly's Instagram post detailing an experience while participating in the Night in a Car event.

The reality couldn’t be further from the truth; 54% of all homeless people live in small towns, a description that certainly fits Bloomington, a smaller community of about 75,000 in central Illinois. This is where Kim, Kimberly and Rachael sat huddled in their car while the temperatures dipped below zero.

“We kept thinking how right now, there were people out in our town that were having to do what we’re doing, how this wasn’t just one night for them. Maybe they didn’t even have a car for shelter,” said Kim.

According to recent studies, 37% of all homeless people live outside or under conditions deemed unfit for human habitation.

“Right now, there are families in our community that are sleeping in their cars,” said Kim. “For us, this is one night. For them, it’s their life.”

Understanding leads to compassion

 “I knew about homelessness on a conceptual level, but when you literally walk in someone else’s shoes and feel what they feel – that is true empathy building,” said Rachael.

“This was my first year participating, and it’s an experience that I’ll never forget. Not only does it make me appreciate the comforts in my life, but it fuels my drive to give to organizations who provide services to the homeless community.”

 “I know that this is completely different,” said Kim. “I know that in a couple of hours, this will all be over and I can go home, but by getting even a little look into this world, I’m motivated to do even more to help.”

 

Summary

At State Farm, we believe doing good is contagious and there are Good Neighbors all around, even though it’s sometimes hard to see. People who, each and every day, make the world a better place, one Act of Good at a time.

That’s why we started 100 for Good™.

Giving back, doing good and being there when it counts are all a part of our State Farm culture. It’s who we are, and it’s who you are, too. 100 for Good brings us all together so we can see all the amazing Acts of Good our fellow Good Neighbors are doing across the country.

Big or small, every Act of Good makes a difference. Donating old clothes, paying for a stranger’s coffee, or big acts like Kim, Kimberly and Rachael.

Together, we can do so much good, and inspire others to join the movement of making this world a better place, one Act of Good at a time.