I rode into the city on Thursday with team members and Sleepout veterans Richard Seidler and Dion Morreale. We arrived at Covenant House (CH) around 4:30 PM, checked our bags, and got ready for the long night.
First up was a walk to Times Square for the vigil event highlighting the issue of teen homelessness. Lynn was in the city that day and met me there. After grabbing some pizza and great conversation with the new Goodwill Rescue Mission director, Dave Jones, we headed back to CH for their main presentation. Stirring video testimonies, great stories, and a lot of positive energy really helped me capture what CH was all about.
But the best part was when they separated us into small groups to spend time with CH kids and staff workers where we heard their stories and asked questions. This was the real deal - first hand accounts of kids who were living on the street, but now have hope, goals, and are moving forward with their lives.
I was most impressed with the amazing dedication of the outreach workers in NJ. They literally search the highways and byways (and under bridges and boardwalks) looking for homeless youth, building up trust with them, and introducing them to a host of supportive services (not just shelter).
Each kid has a different story. They are people first, and each has unique dreams and goals just like the rest of us. But they lost their housing along the way and went into survival mode. I was surprised at how many of them were simply victims of tough situations. Examples:
- Both parents died so she was out on her own
- Parents had too many mouths to feed so she had to make it on her own.
- Foster care situation was unbearable
- Both parents were drug addicts
All in all, it was probably the most impactful part of the evening. But then is was time to gear up and change into warmer clothing. The 251 other business execs and I claimed our patches in the small CH parking lot on the corner of 41st and 10th for the sleepout.