One rainy weekend in January, a group of high school students and leaders stayed over at LOPC to learn about homelessness and what we can do to support those experiencing homelessness.
Bill Shaw, Program Manager of Warm Winter Nights, visited the group and shared stories from individual clients to help youth begin to understand the many ways a family may become homeless and what it may be like for a family to live in a shelter. Afterward, youth set up sleeping tents in Fellowship Hall to mimic the living situation of families sheltered by Warm Winter Nights.
Unlike families at Warm Winter Nights who adhere to a careful sleeping schedule to support families’ work and school schedules, we didn’t get much sleep. We were up at 6:15 a.m. to take down our shelters and drove to Shelter Inc. in Martinez where we cooked a hot breakfast for 50 residents and engaged in crafts and games with the children.
Olivia, 16, reflected on her experience saying, “I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I saw with three girls who were all sisters and they did the craft which included writing what they were thankful for. These girls didn’t have much but they still thought of a ton of ideas for things they were grateful for. Just those three hours of sitting with the girls made me reflect on my own life and realize all the blessings that God has given to me.”
Sleep Out was a fantastic experience for youth. Students gave their valuable weekend hours in order to brighten someone’s day while fostering compassion and experiencing a small piece of what it is like to live in a shelter. It is our hope that, through this experience, youth continue to diminish the fear of encountering someone with whom we do not easily identify and discover instead that each person we meet is our very own brother and sister.