On Friday, November 6th, 2015 Stockton held their third annual Sleep-Out. This event was sponsored by Covenant House, an organization in Atlantic City dedicated to providing food and shelter to the homeless youths who come to their doors. By youths, I do not mean just children; people my age stay there as well.
I originally learned about this event from a representative from the Covenant House during Day of Service. My roommate constantly reminded me that she was going throughout the week. I decided on the night of the event to sign up and go with her (I do not recommend that anyone wait that long if they can help it). To sign up, I had to search for “Stockton Sleep-Out” on Facebook. After scrolling through the related posts, I eventually found a link to the official website for the event. From there I signed up for the event and set up a sponsor page so that my friends on Facebook could donate funds towards our goal. Certain set amounts of money paid for clothes, food, heating, etc. for those living at Covenant House.
The event itself took place at the Lakeside Lodge near upperclassmen housing. There we signed an attendance form and waited to be divided into tribes. I was not placed in a tribe with any of my housemates, but it was easy to make friends with the people in my tribe.
The first challenge we went through was a “box hunt”, where we would search the upperclassmen housing area for cardboard boxes. The tribe who collected the most boxes won. We could only carry one box per person and there were not enough for everyone. We would have to sleep on them later once the activities were through. Realistically, a person who is homeless does not always find a safe, comfortable place to sleep at night, so I feel like this is a parallel.
The second challenge was comprised of six little contests: an egg toss, three-legged race, a hula hooping contest, a scavenger hunt where the supervisors kept removing chairs as it progressed, undoing a human knot, and a crab-walking contest. Not everybody got to participate in everything; each event only needed four to eight people. I don’t know if I can draw any parallels between the games and homelessness. Mostly, they were for our entertainment and to keep us awake. I suppose that if I think about it, both involve limited resources and difficulty adjusting, but that is a very weak simile and I am not committed to it.
Probably the most important part of this event was the presentations brought to us by both the Covenant House and by the supervising staff. Before this event, I’d associated being homeless with being completely broke and having no place to stay at all. Then one man introduced me to the concept of “couch hopping”; his mother had been sick and it was difficult to pay her medical bills and eventually I think they lost the house. He would end up staying with different friends and constantly switching between. Another woman’s house had burnt down and her family had to stay at a hotel until they could either afford a new house or repairs to the old one. Though these people had a place to stay, both went a significant amount of time without a home.
I feel really bad now for having taken my home for granted. The Covenant House is still raising funds on their website, so people can still visit and donate money. As I said above, this money will go towards food and resources for the youths of Covenant House. I sincerely hope that too many more people will not have to go through such hardships in the years to come.