SIOUX CITY | Siouxland Sleep Out is special to Darla Axtell. 

"I was homeless as a child," the Sioux City woman said while setting up her tent at Lewis and Clark Park Friday. "It is something very dear to my heart and it is something I can do to give back."

Friday marked the 13th annual Siouxland Sleep Out, an event that encourages Siouxlanders to give up their warm homes and beds for one night in an effort to raise awareness and generate funds to help the homeless in the Siouxland community.

Event coordinator Cindy Wood said about 250 people will set up sleeping bags, tents and makeshift shelters in the outfield of the stadium. Typically the event raises about $50,000 each year for Siouxland agencies that serve the homeless in various ways such as providing warming shelters and food banks.

Axtell was prepared to "bundle up" as Friday night temperatures were forecast to dip into the 30s. 

"On a night like tonight where it is going to be really cold, it awakens you to what it is going to be like out on the street," Wood said. "The people that actually sleep out and take part, realize that the elements going into winter and during winter are rough." 

Wood said there are about 350 people in Sioux City that are homeless. 

"We are here to let people know that and to show support and compassion for that group of people," she said.
This is the fourth year Axtell has participated in Sleep Out. She is the leader of a team that raises more than $1,000 a year.

"It warms my heart that every year our team has gotten bigger and bigger," Axtell said. "That tells me that the awareness is out there. There are a lot of good people just trying to help somebody that is down on their luck."

The event includes a soup line, local music, silent auction, and campfire until lights out at 11 p.m.

"When we go home the next morning, we have a nice warm house to go home to and a shower-- things you just take for granted after you have been out here all night," Wood added.