Tayari Howard, late-night radio personality on Smooth Jazz 98.1 FM, recently slept in a tent at Liberty Station for two weeks. Every evening, from October 9 through October 22, he left the radio station at 11:00 p.m. and took his post between Panera Bread and Starbucks, where he slept until 6:00 a.m. His aim was to raise $20,000 for the Trinity House, a local nonprofit organization that provides transitional housing and other resources to homeless individuals and families.
Last year, Howard volunteered to sleep outside for a month in an effort to raise $10,000 for the same organization; it took only one week to raise $17,000, and he was able to call it quits three weeks early. This year, however, after the two weeks Howard had promised, he says the Trinity House was only able to raise “about a third of what we were shooting for.” Coming short of his fundraising goal, however, wasn’t the only trouble Howard faced.
“This year was a rude awakening for me,” he says. The first two nights, he slept without foam padding beneath his sleeping bag, thus exacerbating a previous back injury. When he woke up, he couldn’t move and had to ask the security guard stationed with him for help getting up.
Howard also didn’t know that when sleeping in a sleeping bag, it’s necessary to keep one arm outside the bag. He zipped himself with both arms in and was unable to free himself when the tent began to leak in a downpour of rain.
“I couldn’t get out, and I couldn’t scoot out, so I had to call for help,” he says. The security guard, who Howard claims is 6’3”, 300 pounds, came to his rescue once again.
“It’s not good for two and a half men to be rolling around in a tent at two o’clock in the morning,” Howard laughs. “I’m praying that no one took pictures of that.”
Because Howard wanted to simulate homelessness as closely as possible, he requested that no Porta-Potty be provided. The nearest restroom facility available to him was a quarter of a mile away, at an AMPM.
“When I woke up in the middle of the night having to use the bathroom, I had two choices: AMPM or the bush,” he says. “There were a couple of nights where I had to do the bush thing. I apologize.”