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Commentary: Sleeping Out for the Homeless

Camryn Lynn

Last year, I had the amazing opportunity to work with Samaritan Well, a homeless shelter in Macomb, to help organize their first annual Sleep Out for the Homeless fundraiser. The premise of a sleep out is to spend a night away from home - ideally outside - to raise awareness and funds for those in our communities who have no home to return to.

Last year, Macomb’s Sleep Out was greeted with overwhelming support from the community. We received donations of food and prizes from several local businesses and raised $1000 for Samaritan Well with the help of our generous donors. The event included lots of hay rack rides, games, prizes, music, and food, and several speakers from Samaritan Well and the Macomb community came to educate the participants about homelessness.

Thousands of powerful events like ours have been hosted all over the country, and this year, I have the honor of organizing this incredible fundraiser in Macomb again.

Of course, as I am sure we have all come to expect, the plans will look different this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Sleep Out, which will take place on the night of November 6th, will now be hosted completely online via Facebook. Instead of everyone sleeping outside together as we traditionally would, the willing participants will be sleeping out in their own yards alone or with small groups of their friends and loved ones. The event will include pre-recorded speakers, a virtual tour of the homeless shelter, and live updates from participants.

This is certainly not the way I imagined it would be, but if there is one thing I have learned from the pandemic thus far, it is that we must always search for the silver lining.

The beauty of the virtual sleep out is that anyone can join in; even if you’re a thousand miles away, we would love to have your support. You also have the ability to participate at whatever capacity you’re able, and absolutely no contribution is too small.

As a busy college student myself, I completely understand that life gets in the way of things like this and many of us can’t afford to be up all night. However, I hope that you will still take this opportunity to contribute what you can to this incredible cause. Even taking a short walk outside can be an opportunity to develop an understanding of how difficult it would be to live in the cold weather we’ve been experiencing.

Then, whether you’ve been outside for a few minutes or a few hours, take a picture of yourself or something around you, briefly write about your experience, and upload it to our Facebook page with the tag @MacombSleepOut2020. Our hope for this event is simply to spread awareness about Samaritan Well to as many people in our community as possible, so every post, share, and like on our page is extremely valuable.

If you would like to donate to Samaritan Well, we will be accepting donations on our Facebook page also, and our goal is to raise more than the $1,000 that was graciously donated to the event last year. You can find our page, which contains more information about the event, by searching Sleep Out for the Homeless 2020 on Facebook.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to our message, and we greatly appreciate your support!

Camryn Lynn is a sophomore at Western Illinois University. She is majoring in biology with a focus in medical sciences.

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of WIU or Tri States Public Radio.

Diverse views are welcomed and encouraged.