Sleep out to raise awareness of needs of homeless youth
Friday, Nov. 10, 2017
SALT LAKE CITY — On Nov. 16 youth all over the United States will unite in an effort to bring shelter to young people who have no place else to turn.
Sleep Out America is an effort to help the Covenant House, a nonprofit organization that, for the last 40 years, has cared for homeless youth and young adults. It works in 31 cities across six countries.
“This year the Covenant House started the Sleep Out campaign to bring awareness to the fact that we have many young adults and youth that are homeless and oftentimes targeted by human traffickers,” said Catherine O’Hare Adams, who is organizing a local event at the St. Catherine of Siena Newman Center.
The purpose of the Sleep Out America campaign is “for us to become aware of what is sleeping out at night and how uncomfortable that can be, and to also be in solidarity,” said Adams, a member of the parish’s Social Justice team. “The Catholic Church challenges us to be in solidarity with the ones that are less fortunate than us, and it helps us to experience what these young people are experiencing every day when they have no place to sleep. It also allows us to raise some funds for Covenant House and the work that they do.”
In the United States, 549,928 people are experiencing homelessness; almost 60 percent of these people are under 18 years of age, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2016 Homeless Assessment Report.
On any single night, there are 35,686 unaccompanied homeless youth, 89 percent of them under the age of 18, according to the report.
The diverse causes that force a child to be homeless include abandonment, mental health issues and abuse.
Among the participants in the St. Catherine of Siena Newman Center’s Sleep Out America event will be Catherine Coffey, the youth ministry leader at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, who decided to put into practice what she heard in a recent homily about love.
“It was said that we need to love our neighbors as ourselves,” she said. “I was really excited and it motivated me to participate in this effort.”
The event will allow her the opportunity to give up her comforts and routines, experience sleeping outside and “to understand what it means to not have a home to go back to – I think ultimately our lives will change,” Coffey said.
She expects the experience will give her a better understanding of the reality facing people who are materially poor, “so when I encounter them, I can meet them with a different mind and heart set,” she said. “Realizing what is happening to them is a step to see our population with different eyes, to be more Catholic active.”
She encourages others to join the effort because “any opportunity that we have to increase our faith and learn about others – we should just do it,” she said.
“By students participating [in this effort], people will become more aware and support the Covenant House in any way they can,” Adams added.
The Sleep Out America at Saint Catherine of Sienna Newman Center will start at 8 p.m. on Nov. 16 and end with morning prayer the next day at 8 a.m. Participants, who should be 18 or older, will sleep on the parish plaza.
Other groups in Utah also will have a Sleep Out America event. For information, visit https://sleepoutamerica.org/.