On November 5, a group of 19 Holy Family students and two teachers, Mr. Dwyer and Mr. Dols, were bused to Cretin-Derham Hall, the host location for 2016’s Night to Fight Homelessness. At Night to Fight, four local Lasallian schools, Cretin-Derham Hall, Totino Grace, De La Salle, and Holy Family, get together to gain knowledge and create awareness for homelessness.
We started out the night with Mass, praying for the homeless. After a light dinner, Joe Surber, a representative from Families Moving Forward, spoke about the factors of homelessness and how we can help. None of the factors he mentioned were things someone can choose, making the point that homelessness is not a choice.
He also focused on the action aspect of Families Moving Forward and how students can act upon this issue. He encouraged students to become involved through social media and connect with Families Moving Forward: Twitter- @believeinhome and Facebook- @beaconinterfaith.
After icebreakers and fun team building games, we eventually went outside to sleep for the night. Most people slept in tents; however, some brave souls decided to sleep in a box. Luckily for us, the weather could not have been more perfect fall night: 52-degrees and no wind.
There are many things that changed my perspective on homelessness at Night to Fight.
The weather: Even in 52-degree weather, in a tent, and with multiple layers, I was still cold. Imagining a homeless person with no extra layers, on the street, and in the middle of a Minnesota winter, makes me realize how terrible the conditions for homeless can be.
We went to bed at 1 a.m. and woke up at 5:30 a.m., resulting in about four hours of sleep. These can be regular hours for the homeless, especially with Families Moving Forward. They wake up the families at 5:30 a.m. to make sure the families can make the bus to the day center so they can go to work and school.
After Night to Fight, I was lucky enough to go home and take a 3-hour nap in my bed. This is not even close to reality for the homeless. Each night is a question of where the homeless will go, creating problems of safety and health. I take for granted that I will sleep in a bed every night under shelter.
One of the Holy Family students that slept in a box was Jack Geadelmann. His perspective on homeless changed over the course of the night: “When I first got to the field and set up my box, it seemed like sleeping in it with two layers and a sleeping bag would be a piece of cake. However, when we all got settled eventually, the cold air and flat ground was much more present. After about an hour or so, I did get some sleep, but it’s not a discomfort I could imagine living with for days on end.”
Night to Fight Homeless is meant to give students a small insight into what homelessness is like. For someone who has never experienced homelessness, just one night can be uncomfortable and miserable, so imagining having no shelter for days on end is unfathomable. Fighting homelessness needs action, whether it is getting involved on the social media, creating a Families Moving Forward program in your local church, or simply being grateful for the shelter you have.
This article written by Mary Seifert first appeared in the school’s online paper, The Phoenix on November 5, 2016. Click on this link to read more articles.