"(The storm) just makes it that much more sad," said Maryvale senior Brianna Boyd, of Hunt Valley. "We'll be at home — and a lot of people don't have a home."

In addition to building shelters, the students spent the night learning how to live on a poverty-level income, a budgeting exercise called Living on the Edge. They also heard from various speakers through the night and learned about various reasons for homelessness, from mental illness and substance abuse to former prison inmates struggling to re-enter society and youths who may be having trouble with life after leaving foster care.

In the morning, students cooked and served breakfast for the homeless.

This year's event was bigger than last year's, with 13 school participating, compared to nine in 2011.

For Joe Cordella, director of campus ministry at Loyola Blakefield High School, the entire event was a teachable moment.

"We really stress solidarity with the poor and service over charity," said Cordella, of Towson.

"I want a better understanding of homeless people on a personal level," said Jack Brower, of Catonsville, a senior at Loyola-Blakefield. "You see them on the road, but you don't know what they're doing. It's a distant relationship."

"I'm hoping to understand homeless people and hear their stories," said Loyola-Blakefield junior Joey Benassi, of Rodgers Forge.

"It's important for the boys to be exposed to a life they normally would not be exposed to," said Pete Kwiterovich, of Roland Park, head of the Gilman middle school, one of many teachers in the area who helped out at the event.

In conjunction with last week's Gilman football game against McDonogh School in Owings Mills, students and families from both schools conducted a drive to collect blankets and clothing for Jobs, Housing & Recovery to distribute to the needy.

Gilman junior Zach Ranen, of Mount Washington, said he wanted the public to learn from the event, too.

"I think it's important to raise awareness," Ranen said.

"Coming from an elite private school, it's good to see how people less fortunate that us live," said Cam Wade, a senior from the Park Heights area.

Handing out commemorative T-shirts at the sleepout were Yvonne Jauregui, a nursing supervisor for the organization Health Care for the Homeless, and her 14-year-old daughter, Shantha, a sophomore at Catonsville High.

That wasn't one of the schools participating in this year's sleepout and Shantha Jauregui was too young to participate anyway.

But she said if her school was interested in having its students participate at next year's sleepout, "I would be honored to."