Springfield Sleepout helps raise awareness of youth homelessness

Originally posted on the-standard.org on Nov. 10, 2016. Photo taken by Emily McTavish.

To spread awareness about youth homelessness, Missouri State’s sociology club took part in the seventh annual Springfield Sleepout, hosted by The Kitchen Inc.’s Rare Breed program, on Nov. 6. The event encouraged participants to sleep outside in tents or structures made out out of cardboard to simulate what it’s like to be homeless, while also raising money for Rare Breed.

The Kitchen Inc., is a Springfield-based organization that works to end homelessness by providing housing and a variety of services to those in need. One of those services includes the Rare Breed program, geared specifically toward youth homelessness.

This year’s sleepout was hosted at the Wesley Methodist Church. The cost of $15 was for those who wanted to spend the night. It bought a meal that had been donated by various restaurants, activities and a T-shirt, while supplies lasted.

The Sociology Club has been involved with Springfield Sleepout for six years. Sociology Club advisor Dr. Tim Knapp said club members were trying to match last year’s goal of $500.

“We have a jar on the counter at the department office and people throw dollars and quarters into there,” Knapp said. “But, basically, it’s people who are participating. They are hitting up family and friends, and we announce it in classes.”

For the club’s president and sociology major, Jessie Ferguson, Springfield Sleepout proves to be a thought-provoking experience. She said when she first got involved last year, she immediately understood the purpose of the event.

“I was really glad I wasn’t spending the night –– which sounds really bad,” Ferguson said. “The whole point is that you are really thankful for what you have, and I remember thinking the whole time, ‘I can’t wait to go home and sleep in my own bed.’”

For this year’s event, there were four teams signed up who had been competing for best structure and who could raise the most money, one of the competitors being the Sociology Club. The Sociology Club raised $678 for the event.

According to Special Events Coordinator Jaque Harness, the goal for Springfield Sleepout had already been surpassed.

“The goal for the event this year was $10,000, and we have already surpassed that before we even had it, and that was from our sponsorships and donations,” Harness said. “We are well over $13,000 and that is before the event even started.”

Besides just acting as a fundraiser, Knapp also believes the

event is powerful in the sense that you are as close as you can get to gaining a different perspective. He said the majority of people who attend don’t stay in tents, so they are truly learning what it’s like to be in another’s shoes.

“It’s different to say you’re sleeping in a tent than sleeping in a box,” Knapp said. “It means something different in the eyes of the students and the public.”

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