On Friday, February 24th, L.I.V.I.N.G. Ministry hosted its first ever Sleepout event. This purpose of this event was to education, raise awareness, and encourage participants to get involved in the fight against homelessness. From all accounts this first event was a huge success! 36 people joined us and slept out on one of the coldest nights last month. Most people slept in the abandoned building that we own, and were greeted with the chills of a cold, dark, and damp building. A few braved the elements and actually slept outside with the snow falling and wind whipping all night! Overall, the event was great.
The night started by people having to wait outside in the cold with all of their belongings while they waited for us to serve dinner. This is the same fate that the homeless have each and every night. In good fun, we played trivia with those outside awaiting their meal. Once inside, we fed everyone dinner through a soup line. Participants grabbed their bowl of soup and bagged lunch and sat in a cold metal chair to eat it. After lunch we played a few games to get people thinking about homelessness and their personal stereotypes. One game was for the participants to create the most clever sign from which they would panhandle. They were charged with using exactly 9 words.
After the games, two speakers came and shared their personal experiences with the group. One was Mac McMahon, the director of homeless services at Community Human Services Corp in Oakland. He shared a little about what he does, some statistics on homelessness in Pittsburgh, and a few stories of people he has helped in the past. Next was George Haley. George was formerly homeless, and shared a few of his experiences with the group.
After hearing the plight of the homeless, we turned to discussions on solutions. We deliberated over stories of people the ministry has served in the past, and then we planned our courses of action. These discussions were very beneficial to the participants as they were able to better understand how to best help and serve the homeless and what their true needs are.
The night ended with everyone building boxed houses to sleep in for the night. The next morning, we woke up, ate breakfast and then broke out to do service projects involving serving the homeless. Some moved a formerly homeless guy into his new apartment, some served breakfast to the homeless, and some helped restore the home of a woman who is very close to becoming homeless.
Overall, our first ever Sleepout was a great time for all! We all learned alot, got to experience first hand a little taste of what the homeless experience every day. This event was so transformative and impactful that most participants wanted us to do it more frequently (like once every month)!