Sleeping out in Alaska to combat youth homelessness
How does it feel to be homeless? For the past three years, I’ve participated in the Covenant House Young Professionals Sleep Out to help raise awareness of homelessness, a growing problem in the United States and for thousands of young people.
According to the Annual Homeless Assessment Report, on a single night in January 2016, there were 35,686 unaccompanied homeless youth. Disconnected from their families and other social support, these young people often have endured traumatic and adverse childhood experiences. Many have become homeless to flee abusive environments, have spent time in juvenile justice facilities, aged out of foster care, or have been victims of human trafficking and exploitation.
Covenant House is an international organization with offices in six countries and a mission to end youth homelessness. Through their programs, they’ve helped transform and save the lives of more than one million homeless, runaway and trafficked young people globally since in 1972. They offer housing and support services, reaching 80,000 boys and girls every year.
Our AECOM Alaska office and employees have supported Covenant House Alaska (CHA) since 2014, having raised nearly US$10,000 to support their mission. Through the Sleep Outs, individuals, companies and other organizations help fundraise and increase the visibility of the homelessness issue. You meet some of the young people that live at Covenant House, you’re educated about youth homelessness at a local level and about the services CHA provides, and you even join in a typical meal. The grand finale is finding a piece of cardboard and a space on the pavement suitable enough for a cold night’s sleep. And speaking from experience, the temperature can quickly drop to single digits through the night.
Being part of the Sleep Outs not only helps raise the money necessary for Covenant House to continue providing services and keep their doors open, it allows you to feel vulnerable for one night and get just a glimpse into some of the struggles faced by homeless youth every day. The situations these kids encounter can derail their lives at a time when their futures should be full of promise.
By doing our part to help Covenant House advance their goal of providing safe, focused and purpose-driven services to young people in need, we’re also furthering the mission of AECOM’s corporate responsibility platform, Blueprint for a Better World, and our “Opening Doors” pillar.
I encourage you to visit the Covenant House website to learn more and find out how you can help combat youth homelessness in your area. I promise; there are so many more ways to contribute than sleeping outside in 13 degrees Fahrenheit weather in Alaska!