An expected 500 executives across the United States and Canada will experience homelessness on November 15 as part of the Covenant House Sleep Out to Support Homeless Youth. This nationwide effort will raise awareness for the plight of kids on the street while raising an expected $2.5 million to support homeless and runaway youth helped by Covenant House.
In South Florida, 21 business people will spend an uncomfortable night on the pavement behind the Covenant House Florida shelter. South Florida sleepers include Jan Vrins, senior executive at Accenture, Jeff Richman, senior manager at Florida Power and Light, Jen Klaassens, vice president of The Wasie Foundation, Michael Kubinski, Empire Furniture, Barbara Burnette, president of My Well Corp., Timothy O'Brien, vice president of Sprinklermatic Fire Protection, Inc., Dave Grabosky, owner of T&G Constructors, among others.
These community leaders and 14 other execs will begin the evening with dinner at the shelter, followed by youth testimonials and a tour of the shelter. At 11 p.m., participants will head outside with a sleeping bag and a piece of cardboard for a not-so-good night sleep. Sleepers will lie on the paved parking lot that borders the Bonnet House property on AIA in Fort Lauderdale. Although the lot will be lit, a nearby dumpster attracts raccoons and other night-roving animals. To ensure safety, Fort Lauderdale police will patrol the area.
"Even though we'll be sleeping in a controlled environment, unlike the homeless kids who potentially face danger every night, it's still a bit unnerving to sleep outside in the elements with nothing more than a sleeping bag and a piece of cardboard," said James M. Gress, Covenant House Executive Director, who is sleeping out with the group. "Just thinking about it makes me appreciate the comforts of home. I can't imagine what homeless kids go through night after night."
And that's precisely the point. Executives will walk away from the experience with the knowledge of what it's like to be homeless.
"I can't even imagine what homeless youth experience in these circumstances and for that I would like to pay my respects by experiencing it myself," said Sleep Out participant Barbara Burnette. "No child should be abandoned, living in the streets and hungry."
"Sleepers" are reaching out to family, friends and colleagues to raise funds in support of their sleep out efforts and benefiting Covenant House Florida. In South Florida, the goal is to bring in $100,000 or approximately $5,000 per participant.
The Covenant House Sleep Out to Support Homeless Youth will take place at Covenant House Florida, 733 Breakers Avenue in Fort Lauderdale. Participants will gather at 7 p.m. The Sleep Out runs from 11 p.m. through 7 a.m.
To participate in the Sleep Out, contact Elisa Stone at 954-568-7914 or EStone@CovenantHouseFL.org. To make a donation, visit http://tinyurl.com/CHFSleepOut, scroll down and click on a team member's name.
About Covenant House Florida
Covenant House Florida's Fort Lauderdale program provides an array of services including:
- Street outreach by foot and van
- Shelter care -- nourishing meals, clean clothes, and a safe place to sleep
- Counseling, case management, and therapy
- Health services at on-site clinic
- Family reunification whenever possible
- Substance abuse treatment and aftercare
- Pregnancy prevention/teen parent education
- Education -- full-time school for younger teens, classes toward high school equivalency (GED -- General Educational Development) for older adolescents
- Job readiness assistance
- Transportation assistance for local referrals, job searching, and return home
- Pastoral ministry -- voluntary spiritual guidance
- Transitional housing for older adolescents bridging into independent living
Covenant House Florida opened in Fort Lauderdale in 1985 and expanded to Orlando in 1995. Last year, the organization reached more than 200 teens a-day via street outreach, crisis shelters, transitional housing projects, and walk-in and aftercare services, making it one of the largest private agencies serving runaway and homeless youth in the state of Florida. It is part of an international mission with programs in 20 cities in the United States, Canada, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua. The agency relies primarily on support from private individuals and organizations -- not on tax dollars -- to meet the multiple and complex needs of homeless youth.
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