‘It’s a godsend’ Sleeping mats made of grocery bags aim to help Springfield’s homeless community

KOLR10 Daybreak

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – From what could’ve been thrown out to something that could change lives. OzarksFirst has been learning about an effort in Springfield to help homeless people get better sleep.

Plastic bags from grocery stores around town are being used to make sleeping mats. Homeless people in town say it’s more comfortable than you may think.

Christy Stiles has one.

“When I do my bedding, I usually put my tarp down first, and then I take two sleeping bags that I’m blessed with, and I put them on top of this,” Stiles said. “Then I’ll just start layering my blankets until it looks like a bed. But it’s actually really comfortable.”

Stiles says this is her new bedtime routine after three years of sleepless nights outside with a few blankets and a tarp.

“Even using a tarp, you’re still going to feel those rocks,” Stiles said. “You’re still going to feel all that other stuff that’s on the ground. It wasn’t enough comfort that you could actually rest easy.”

Jonathan Lentz spent much of 2021 shivering as the sun came down.

“A lot of times, we would have to use most of our blankets to put down for padding,” Lentz said.

But things changed for the better last summer when someone donated sleeping mats made out of grocery bags to the Veterans Coming Home Center.

“I just feel really blessed that there’s somebody who actually cares that would turn these into a nice, little mat for me,” Stiles said.

Lentz echoed Stiles’ praise, and says the mat saves space, time, effort and energy.

“It’s just amazing,” Lentz said. “If you ask me, that’s way better than donating money to someplace. This means something. It’s a godsend. I can’t even imagine how many hours it would’ve taken to put something like that together, let alone the time and the effort and energy to put something like that together for someone you probably will never even meet.”

Someone putting in the time and effort is Darlene Haun. Haun is leading an effort to make and give out 100 mats in 100 days to homeless people in Springfield. She has already donated 51 mats, and she hopes to give out more by December 9.

“I’m glad I spoke up my big mouth and said ‘let’s try to do 100,” Haun said. “Even if we don’t make 100 mats, even if we only make 48, there are 48 people out there that are going to be much more comfortable. I doubt we’re going to really make it, but this group is just getting started. They’re not going to stop on December 9. I don’t think anyone should have to live outside, but the matter of the fact is that some people do. Whether they’re tents, or in cars or just plain out on the concrete. And if we can make them more comfortable, we will.”

Haun says anyone can help make mats at the Unity Church on Seminole. People can stop by every Thursday around 12:30 p.m. until further notice. She says around 600 to 800 grocery bags and a week’s worth of work can make a difference in someone’s life.

“Most people take these and just throw them in the trash because they don’t care,” Stiles said. “But this means more to me than anything.”

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