TYLER, TX (KLTV) - It's an epidemic that often goes unseen and it's happening right here in East Texas. Every night nearly 400 people go homeless and that's just in Smith County.
The problem of homelessness was the focus of a special event Friday night in Tyler. P.A.T.H.'s One Night Without a Home provides participants with a brief but thought provoking look into the lives of the homeless.
People arrived ready for a taste of a far less forgiving lifestyle by trading a sleeping bag for a bed and turning in their wallets and cell phones.
"One night of discomfort does not compare in any way to what people in homelessness situations are facing," said P.A.T.H. Executive Director Christina Fulsom. "Many of the homeless are now people who lost employment, many single moms with children, those are the things that surprise people."
Another surprise, the average age for the homeless in America tops out at just nine years old. In East Texas schools and volunteers do their part, but homeless numbers are back up after the closing of the East Texas Rescue Mission.
"I think it comes first with understanding, once you understand homelessness perhaps you're a little more compassionate and with that compassion then comes action," said Fulsom.