Home sweet parking lot

Irwin, PA-North Versailles, PA, 7.6 miles

Though I am not as fearful of spending the night sleeping outside as I was at the start of my trip, it remains stressful. There is a strategy in finding a location that is safe and neither too dark nor too light. Earlier today I turned down an offer to stay with someone who lived nearby, and walked past hotels without stopping. So, when the sun went down, I decided to sleep behind a church for the night.

I have a tent and a sleeping bag–I am equipped to spend the night camping. But this is not really camping. There is no campfire with friends or roasted marshmallows. This is the option of last resort when you have nowhere else to go. And I can be thankful that unlike so many who sleep on the streets out in the elements, I am dry and warm–albeit uncomfortable.

I can only imagine that living in a constant state of homelessness is physically, mentally and emotionally draining. I am doing this for a night. Millions of Americans each year become homeless because they have nowhere else to go.

–By Jennifer E. Cooper