On April 28, women from across South Jersey will roll out sleeping bags for Covenant House Atlantic City’s Sleep Out: Women Unite.
The Sleep Out, which raises funds and awareness for children who stay at Covenant House, challenges participants to sleep outside for a night with little else but boxes and sleeping bags.
Participants will spend the night getting to know some of the kids who depend on Covenant before spending the night on the street in their place.
It can change the face of homelessness for participants, said Jen Williams, Senior Development Manager at Covenant House.
“People tend to think of homeless people as being dirty and scruffy on the streets, and I think a lot of people forget that kids can be homeless as well,” said Williams. “This is also the kind of event where you’re coming to a shelter and meeting our young people and realizing that they didn’t ask to be here, they kind of just have been dealt a bad hand.”
In the United states, 40 percent of those who are homeless are under the age of 18, according to a release from Covenant House.
About 46 percent of youth are homeless because they left a physically abusive home. 50 percent of teenagers who age out of foster care and the juvenile justice system wind up homeless within six months.
Williams said she’s seen those who participate in the Sleep Out come back to volunteer and get involved with Covenant House, bringing along their families, friends, or churches.
For the kids who come to Covenant House, the Sleep Out event leaves an impact too.
“It’s such a beautiful thing for them to see — people from the local community care and want to get involved and give up their bed for the night so our kids don’t have to sleep out.”
This year, Williams said, they have doubled the number of participants, with a goal of raising $100,000.
Covenant House provides food, shelter, immediate crisis care and essential services like education and job training to homeless youth in 30 cities across the United Sates, Canada and Latin America.