When you go to bed tonight, you’ll probably tuck yourself between sheets and blankets and sleep warm until morning. Across Springfield, hundreds of homeless youths will huddle under bridges and trees and wait out the cold night air without a proper place to rest their heads.
To raise awareness of this reality, Rare Breed Youth Services is hosting the annual Springfield Sleepout in conjunction with National Runaway Prevention Month.
Inspired by a young man in Iowa who aged out of the foster-care system and passed away living on the streets, the event was organized six years ago to encourage 417-landers to support our community’s impoverished, many of whom also face abuse, mental illness and addiction.
Sleepout participants are exposed to scenarios designed to educate them on what it’s like to live without. There is a soup line, a thrift-store outfit challenge and a cardboard house-building competition, among other activities.
“We want [people] to understand the barriers and the hardships that homeless youth face every day and the realization that these are kids we’re talking about,” says Loni Brewer, coordinator of youth services for Rare Breed.
Rare Breed provides outreach services and transitional housing to homeless and at-risk youth ages 13 to 21 and depends on grants and donations to be able to meet the needs of the 1,000 individuals it serves every six months.
Last year, the Sleepout raised approximately $8,000, enough to sponsor one apartment for the housing program and wrap-around case management services for 12 months.