People set up their tents for the 2013 Camp for a Common Cause on the Brattleboro Town Common. (Reformer file photo)
People set up their tents for the 2013 Camp for a Common Cause on the Brattleboro Town Common. (Reformer file photo)

BRATTLEBORO -- The Brattleboro Area Drop-In Center and Morningside Shelter are teaming up Friday to host their second annual Camp for a Common Cause, a fundraising event that the groups also hope will bring a greater understanding of the problem of homelessness in Windham County.

On Friday, May 9, the drop-in center and Morningside are asking supporters to spend a night sleeping on the Brattleboro Common.

Morningside Shelter Executive Director Josh Davis said the sight of dozens of tents on the Common will raise awareness about homelessness to people driving by, and the experience of sleeping outdoors will give participants a feel of what it means to spend a night out in an urban environment.

There will be music and food, and the groups hope to exceed last year's total of $10,000, but Davis said organizers are hoping for even more.

"We want to raise money because we are nonprofits and we have to raise money, and we also want to have a good time with the music and food," Davis said. "But we also want this to be a poignant event. We want to underscore the point that homelessness is a big issue in this community."

This year Camp for a Common Cause will kick off with live music from Groove Prophet and a barbecue.

Tickets for the music and barbecue are available for those who don't want to spend a night inside of a tent in downtown Brattleboro

The music will begin at 6 p.m.


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and tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under.

Campers can begin setting up tents on the Common at 4 p.m.

Single campers are asked to raise $100 while groups camping are asked to raise $250.

The music and barbecue are new this year, and organizers hope it will help to raise the event's total.

Davis also said the all-night event gives people time to relax, meet some new people, and talk about the issue of homelessness.

"We live in a very fast-paced world where we receive our information by sound bites and it is easy to stereotype homelessness," Davis said. "We want people to connect and understand how complex some of these stories are. Sometimes there are multiple reasons why someone is homeless and sometimes you see part of yourself in those stories."

The Brattleboro Area Drop-In Center and Morningside Shelter are also gathering sleeping bags and tents with the overflow shelter now closed for the year.

There is a waiting list at Morningside with 30 names on it, and with the overflow shelter closed a tent and sleeping bag are the only amenities that can be offered when people are forced to spend a night outside.

Tents and sleeping bags can be dropped off at the drop-in center at 60 South Main Street.

Last year about 40 campers spent a night on the Common and the two groups split $10,000.

Organizers are hoping to double that amount this year.

Brattleboro Area Drop-In Center Executive Director Lucie Fortier said the event is held in May to mark the closing of the winter overflow shelter, and to remind people that even though the overflow shelter is closed, there are people who spend every night outside because they have no where else to go.

Beyond that even, Fortier said the event is way for people who might not otherwise get to talk to a homeless person to listen to a story and get to know someone behind the issue.

Fortier said Brattleboro Area Drop-In Center clients and overflow shelter participants are being invited to the camping event Friday.

"We want folks to get to know a homeless individual and look at them as a human being instead of just ‘one of those people,'" Fortier said. "When you listen to some of their stories you find out how they became homeless, and you find out that for some people homelessness is not a choice."

The winter overflow shelter closed May 1 and this year 180 different people spent a night at the shelter.

Many of those people are couch surfing, camping in area woods, or spending a night where they can to survive.

The camp out Friday night is way to honor them, said Fortier, a way to raise money, and a way to continue the conversation over what more this community can do to combat the problem.

"Hopefully we will get enough people out to inform the community about how serious homelessness is here," Fortier said. "We'll be here all night and we'll make coffee in the morning, but for folks who are homeless, there is no one making them coffee in the morning."

For more information email Libby Bennett at lbennett@morningsideshelter.org or call 802-257-0066 ext 101.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.