ELYRIA — If 18-year-old Seth Simon, bundled up in several layers of clothing, guessed correctly, at about 2 a.m. this morning hungry set in and the diabetic teen became a little weak.
The cold and rain of the past 18 hours had already worked to chill his body to the core. And, he is counting down the moments until 6 a.m.
At that moment, the realness of the social experiment he and about a dozen other teens were partaking in became more pronounced.
“I can’t imagine how it would feel to be homeless, but I know when I did this last year it was about that time when I really began to feel it,” he said, just a few steps from a makeshift campsite on the lawn of First Congregational United Church of Christ. “It’s scary to think someone who is out here has the same condition as me and no where to turn for help.”
However, to fully empathize with the blight of the homeless population in Lorain County — a figure that changes daily but is steadily on the increase as of lately — the Rev. Patrick Nicolino, the church’s youth pastor, encouraged the kids to leave all the comforts of home at home.
“We try not to have too many luxuries because we understand we have more than people who are actually living this lifestyle,” said Dava Donaldson. “Within the first hour of being here, a real homeless person came by to tell us how it is for them and to imagine being outside for days, weeks and months at a time with no end in sight.”
The “30-hour fast in a box” started 6 a.m. Saturday and runs until 6 p.m. today.
While outside, the 16 or so teenagers will also collect nonperishable food items for the church’s food pantry. Nicolino said the homeless experience is not just a one-time event for the young members of the congregation — instead they work in the pantry, with the Elyria Salvation Army and have taken mission trips to El Salvador and a small Appalachian town in Kentucky.
“Too many times today’s youth is accused of being self-centered, but this community has a lot of young people who have a passion for social justice,” he said. “They know that they may be young, but they have a voice and can help those less fortunate.”
This is the third year for many of the overnighters. For most of the day and night, sheets of cardboard and plastic are all that stood between them and the elements.
“By 6 p.m. (today) we will be cold and huddled together with whatever is left from our camp,” Nicolino said. “That’s when it hits you that you have a home to go back to while so many other people do not.”
Kyle Comfort, 19, said that each year the group quickly learns that in order to make it through the night, they will have to rely on each other.
“You only have each other when the question is not if it will rain, but when,” he said.
First Congregational United Church of Christ is at 330 Second St., next door to the Lorain County Justice Center. Campers will accept nonperishable food items at the church until 6 p.m. today.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.