The Covenant House Sleep Out is a special experience that will make everyone who participates more aware of the stuff that homeless kids deal with every day. But apart from the "Sleeping Out", what do you do for 12 hours?
Below are some specific activities that you can organize with participants at your Sleep Out - either in advance of the event, or on event night.
One of the questions the Sleep Out Team members are frequently asked is, "Where do I get cardboard boxes to sleep outside?" That's only one part of a larger set of questions that homeless kids are forced to ask themselves -- "Where am I going to sleep? How will I stay warm? Will I be safe?"
With a Cardboard Hunt, Sleep Out participants make note of this problem and work out how to solve it. In advance of the Sleep Out, brainstorm a list of all of the things you might need or want to sleep on. Then think about where you might find them -- make a list. Think about how you will transport them on foot and where you will store them -- make a plan.
Divide your lists and plan, and have every participant take part in the Cardboard Hunt -- and document the experience. Who did you talk to? What did you tell them? How did they treat you? What worked? What didn't work? Were you successful? How did you feel?
Then, at the event, talk about that experience? Were some participants more or less successful than others? Why might that have been true? What did you learn?
At Covenant House, we have gathered a lot of data about homeless kids - you can find it on our website. But looking at data doesn’t always make the problem real or tangible for people - and art can help.
Gather poster boards and arts-and-crafts supplies and divide them among groups of four or five participants. Let every group choose an issue, a statistic or piece of information and create a poster that “brings it to life” for everyone else at the event. Then take turns presenting the finished works to one another.
Tip: Think about finding room to display these works in a public place, so that you can share them with people who aren’t able to be part of your Sleep Out.
Young people from around the world come to Covenant House seeking shelter, safety, and support. Here are just a few of their stories you can watch together or on your own on the night of your Sleep Out:
What is your perception of homelessness? Is that different from the perceptions your friends and classmates and family have? How can you know for sure? Watching videos of young people, reading their stories, and Sleeping Out can prompt meaningful conversation among your group. Host a roundtable discussion and use these questions as a guide.
If you want to go a step further, invite people to read "Almost Home" by Covenant House President Kevin Ryan. It dives even deeper into the stories of young people. At the Sleep Out, you can use these book discussion questions to direct your conversation.