Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Church youth to sleep outside Friday

Posted By on Wed, Nov 19, 2008 at 5:46 PM

Say what you want about kids these days -- this takes moxie.

CHARLOTTE YOUTH SLEEP IN CARDBOARD BOXES TO BRING AWARENESS TO HOMELESS ISSUES

CHARLOTTE, NC - Friday, November 21, 2008

On what is expected to be one of the coldest nights this season, dozens of youth and adults from Christ Episcopal Church will spend the night outside in cardboard boxes to bring awareness to the plight of the homeless here in Charlotte. The event is a precursor to the city-wide Homeless Awareness Walk, on Saturday. The youth will spend the night in scavenged cardboard boxes, with little more than the clothes they are wearing to stay warm, hoping to get some needed rest before participating in the Homeless Walk on Saturday.

To make the simulation as realistic as possible, a representative of Charlotte's homeless community will instruct the youth on how to build a meager shelter. He will also share his stories with the volunteers, and discuss the challenges that he faces everyday living in the streets. Participants won't be allowed to pre-construct their shelters, and they will have work in the cold and the dark with minimal materials, just as the homeless do.

Lauren Robbins, Youth Minister at Christ Church, is one of the organizers of the event. She states, "There are over 5,000 homeless people in Charlotte, and on any given night many of them are turned away from the overtaxed shelters and agencies. They aren't the stereotypical old men that we see on TV... many are elderly, disabled, or are single parents with their children. In fact, more than 3,000 homeless children attend Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools each day."

According to Robbins, "Christ Church has made it one of our primary goals to help the homeless in Charlotte, with funding, education, and activities like this. Our volunteers are sleeping outside in the bitter cold... to create awareness to help our homeless neighbors."

Charlotte's ability to manage or help its homeless population has been described as "critical" by many of the agencies whom Christ Church supports with funding andx volunteers. It is estimated that there are 5,000 homeless people, but only 2,000 beds in local shelters. This cold snap, coupled with the worsening economy, has stretched local agencies to the breaking point. Shelters are above capacity, and food agencies are drastically short on supplies. Charlotte's Urban Ministry Center is one of the local agencies supported by Christ Church and is Charlotte's only soup kitchen serving the homeless 365 days a year. Its Program Director, Paul Hanneman, reports that until recently, his agency has typically fed 230 meals a day to the homeless. The number is now up to 400 meals a day and growing.

Although Christ Church regularly houses overflow of homeless people from local shelters, it will still be an interesting dichotomy to see the cardboard encampment on the front lawn of the church, which is located in Myers Park, one of the more affluent residential areas of the city. According to Robbins, "We hope this draws attention to a serious problem in our city, and shows the people of Charlotte that this community is sincerely committed financially and morally to making things better, while encouraging others to do the same."

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