These students took part in creating cardboard box homes for the annual Sleep out event recently at the Church of St Anselm in Tinton Falls.
By DENISE HERSCHEL
Local teens gave up the comforts of sleeping in their beds for a night recently to understand more fully what homelessness can be like.
Thirty middle school and high school youth group members from the Church of St Anselm in Tinton Falls and Holy Innocents Church in Neptune participated in the annual Cardboard Box Sleep Out, constructing cardboard box homes to sleep in for the night in the Church of St Anselm’s parking lot. All proceeds from the event, which has taken place for the last eight years, went to the Covenant House in Asbury Park.
Ocean Township High School senior Reese Corcoran, who has participated in the sleep out each year, said that it continues to be a late summer highlight for many teens as well as a wake-up call.
“When we go through the night together in the boxes, we grew closer as a community and take what we have learned into the real world,” she said. “It’s an educational night because it serves as a reminder that there are kids our age who do not have home to go back to every day. “
According to Kirsten Corely, student initiatives officer for Covenant House, the mission of their organization is “to help each young person find safety and refuge from the dangers of living on the streets.”
“We envision and work toward a world where every young person has a safe place to sleep and the love, respect and support they need to build a future of their own,” she said. “Covenant House serves young people who may have been disconnected from their families or are survivors of human trafficking.”
Corely said that she has worked at about 60 sleep outs during her career and it has impacted her greatly.
“You really walk away feeling connected to the mission, the staff and understanding of what it was you were doing and how important this work is,” she said.
The teens raised nearly $3,000 for the Covenant House and according to Fran Burke, religious education youth coordinator for both churches, the sleepout participants ate a soup kitchen style dinner, watched an outdoor movie, and took part in activities planned by the students and the Covenant House Sleep Out Team.
“Homelessness is all around us. We may not see it in our daily lives but this event allows the kids to see that it is a real problem, even where we live. The speakers we have help them see how the organization helps people in need all around them,” Burke said. “My own four children have participated in every sleep out as members of the Church of St Anselm’s Youth Group. They have been inspired and educated by it.”
Corely added,”I think what inspires me most is seeing the growth of the student Sleep Out movement and a younger generation invested in being the solution to solve homelessness. The impact students have made on Covenant House New Jersey is astronomical and it just keeps growing.”
To learn more about Covenant House go to covenanthousenj.org