My sleepout for the homeless


So tonight I'm going to be sleeping on the street in NYC as part of an teen homelessness awareness event for Covenant House.

Here are some pre-event observations. 

1) Some of you know that I was a professional fundraiser for seven years at Paxton Ministries. It's interesting to be on this side of the fundraising process.  I used to tell my volunteers that the main reason people give time or money is because they are asked.  My involvement with the sleepout is bearing that out. 

The trigger for me to sign up was simply that my friend and mentor, Rich Seidler, invited me to be part of his team.

I was a little reluctant (rain, freezing, physical safety concerns), but since moving to New Jersey in 2008 my giving portfolio hasn't included enough focus on poverty issues. So I saw this as a chance to get off my butt, face the unknown, and finally do something about it.  

2) I have been BLOWN AWAY by the generosity of my friends, coworkers, and family in supporting this effort. Both in the size of the gifts and the number of people contributing.  It's very encouraging. 

3) Fundraising has come a long way since I was involved (pre-internet).  Covenant House has a nice website that makes it easy for volunteers to promote the event, send emails, collect and process donations, track progress and thank people.  My daughter had a similar experience when she set up a personal campaign for Charity: Water.  

4) I'm a little anxious (OK, more than a little) because the temperature is predicted to go down to 28 degrees tonight. So I'm obsessing over clothing layers, and what creature comforts to bring or leave home.  Then it hit me - these homeless kids have to face this every night!  Whoa, I feel like a whining baby.  So I'm even more eager to meet some of these kids tonight to hear their stories.

I already started to notice homeless people more when I was in Penn Station on Tuesday. Instead of ignoring them (for anyone about to get judgy on me, it's part of living in a major metro area - it happens - you get desensitized) I started reminding myself that each one is a real person with a back story.  I'm looking forward to a deeper dive tonight.  I need to be re-sensitized. 

5) Covenant House says the event is completely full and they have a waiting list.  Rich tells me that's a first!

Have you ever done anything like this?
Have you had an experience that sensitized you to poverty and gave you a new perspective?

OK, enough for now.   My next post will be post-event.