Each year, our Faith Community Members get the unique opportunity to live out our Franciscan value of solidarity by experiencing firsthand a night of sleeping on the streets during the Covenant House Young Professionals Sleep Out. The task of fundraising not only raises support for the shelter in which they serve, but it also gives Faith Community members a chance to spread awareness of the many issues the youth they work with face every day. Here, Malcolm shares with us his experience of participating in the Young Professionals Sleep Out.
On March 18, 2016 thirty-five young adults and I participated in the Covenant House Alaska Sleep Out. We slept in the community courtyard. My community members were assigned a large box. I was hoping that the ground would thaw before we climbed into our box.
Initially, for me the Sleep Out seemed like a daunting task. My housemates and I each were requested to raise funds for CHA. Personally, I find it uncomfortable to ask my family and friends for donations. Even though I am uncomfortable asking for money I am passionate about Covenant House and the work I do, and I know that the money raised will go directly to benefit our work. I decided to tackle fundraising by contacting multiple people. I was surprised when I received large donations from people who I personally know, but I was even more surprised by the donations that came from individuals I did not know well. I began to realize that other people were affected and understood Covenant House Alaska’s work and were constantly asking how they could help further the mission. I was inspired by the generosity of my family and friends.
Participating in the Sleep Out gave me a deeper understanding and awareness of our mission and my year of service. Even though I have been here for six months, the Sleep Out put a new perspective on homelessness as we lived it. Covenant House is more than just a homeless shelter in Anchorage, it is an integral part of the community. It is a vital part of the youths’ lives. The youth we work with come from many situations and Covenant House is oftentimes the only safe place to stay. I fully recognized the five principles of Covenant House: immediacy, sanctuary, structure, value communication, and choice. These basic principles we see and we practice every day, but as a Sleep Out participant I witnessed a different side of this.
I believe the Sleep Out has enhanced my experience as a Faith Community Member. My community members and I bonded over a common work related experience that reflected real life events. We all have similar roles at the shelter but this was an event that we could all participate in together. The Sleep Out has inspired me to continue to do my best and it has shown me the effect of Covenant House’s potential in a youth’s life.