The Thursday Before Thanksgiving
10 years ago, on the Thursday before Thanksgiving, 49 people took sleeping bags and cardboard boxes into the parking lot of Covenant House New York — sandwiched between Times Square and the Lincoln Tunnel — to spend a night in solidarity with youth facing homelessness. They had spent the evening in community and conversation with Cov kids — young people who would look out their windows that night and see a group of people out on the concrete who believed so strongly that every young person should have a safe and warm bed that they were willing to give up theirs.
That night, a movement was sparked.
Advocates took to the streets outside of Covenant Houses in 11 cities the following year, and 19 cities — that’s every Covenant House in the United States and Canada — the year after that.
The Sleep Out movement has included companies, students, young professionals, executives, influencers, and individuals from across the continent. Collectively, our community has spent more than 33,000 nights on the street in solidarity with young people facing homelessness.
These young people — our young people — have been the stars of Sleep Out since the beginning. They welcomed communities into their House, shared their stories, and built bridges of connection and understanding between communities of all kinds. With each dream they shared, they reminded us that they are more than their pasts: they’re the future.
Sleep Out participants have invested in and advocated for these futures, raising more than $80 million to house, care for, and empower young people overcoming homelessness at Covenant House. Over the last 10 years, Covenant House expanded to six new cities and shelters more than 2,000 young people every night.
When the world closed under threat of coronavirus, Covenant House remained open 24/7 for young people in need of shelter and safety. Our team leapt into action, adapting intake and safety protocols, creating isolation spaces out of classrooms, fostering togetherness from six feet apart, providing a safety net to youth who found themselves unable to work, and standing with youth as they dealt with tragedy and confronted inequity that the virus laid bare.
COVID-19 didn’t stop Sleep Out
In March, more than 850 young professionals across nine cities decided to stay in and Sleep Out, coming together on a virtual livestream before giving up their beds for the night. Dozens of virtual Sleep Outs followed, and, since you no longer had to be near a Covenant House to Sleep Out, the movement grew.
On November 19, 2020 — the Thursday before Thanksgiving and 10 years after the first Sleep Out in New York City — we will Sleep Out from anywhere and everywhere. As housing has become healthcare and rates of unemployment and homelessness continue to rise, the care that Covenant House provides has never been more critical.
What remains the same? That every young person deserves a safe place to sleep and space to dream
Looking for a local Sleep Out? Review the list here.