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Fargo veteran raises $18,000 to help the homeless

FARGO -- Eric Jungels, a Fargo man who spent nine days sleeping in a tent to raise money to fight homelessness, woke up Christmas Eve to a temperature in the low teens and $18,000 in donations toward helping the homeless find homes.

Eric Jungels, 31, of Fargo, N.D. sits inside a tent outside Barbacóa restaurant on the corner of 42nd Street and 32nd Avenue on Wednesday, December 16, 2015. Carrie Snyder / The Forum
Eric Jungels, 31, of Fargo, N.D. sits inside a tent outside Barbacóa restaurant on the corner of 42nd Street and 32nd Avenue on Wednesday, December 16, 2015. Jungels is sleeping in the tent for a week to raise money for the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Carrie Snyder / Forum News Service

FARGO -- Eric Jungels, a Fargo man who spent nine days sleeping in a tent to raise money to fight homelessness, woke up Christmas Eve to a temperature in the low teens and $18,000 in donations toward helping the homeless find homes.

Jungels started his "Home by Christmas" fundraiser on the crowd-funding website Razoo.com with a goal of raising $10,000 for the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

On Thursday, he was tantalizingly close to his revised goal of $20,000 by Christmas Day.

"I was out here to bring awareness to a pretty serious issue. I feel like I did an OK job of it," he said, his voice betraying weariness that's added up over a week and a half of sleeping in the cold and snow.

"I'm just very pleased with everybody's generosity. I'm so grateful that everyone stepped up to the plate, especially so close to the holidays when so many folks are focused on other things," he said.

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Jungels, who works in public affairs for the North Dakota National Guard, started his fundraiser Dec. 15. He's spent nights in a small white dome tent, lit by a spotlight, next to the parking lot of the Barbacoa restaurant near the intersection of 32nd Avenue South and 42nd Street.

Each morning, he'd head home to shower, then off to work at the Guard base in north Fargo.

"To be honest with you, at work this last week, I've been a little groggy" and probably not the best employee, he said.

The 31-year-old veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is also far from being a fan of winter.

"I've basically had a running cold since about the second day. Oh my gosh, I cannot stand the cold," Jungels said.

This is his second fundraising stint of camping in the cold. It's a circumstance some of the area's homeless -- including some veterans -- are forced to endure, he said.

The plight of homeless veterans is particularly heartbreaking, since the physical or mental disabilities that lead to their homelessness often stem from having sacrificed their health in service to the nation, Jungels said.

The nine-day stretch of snow and cold was a grind at times, he said.

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"There's absolutely no good reason that anyone should be stuck out in this weather," Jungels said. "There were a couple of nights where I struggled to sleep."

Jungels has also opened his home to a fellow guardsman who has been homeless. The man had financial problems and his car was stolen, which led to him losing his job, Jungels said.

The man, who asked to remain anonymous, has stayed in a spare bedroom in Jungels' condo since September. He's been working and saving money and trying to find his own place to live, Jungels said.

Jungels did a similar fundraiser four years ago, camping out 17 days in December in Sartell, near St. Cloud, Minn.

"I can't wait to spend time with the family for Christmas. I'm looking forward to a nice warm bed for sure," he said.

Related Topics: VETERANS
Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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