At first, I laid my cardboard box and sleeping bag out on the pavement. Then, one of the youth who lives at Covenant House gave me some advice before he went inside for the night. “You should try to find you a spot where there’s lawn or some dirt…the sidewalk gets colder late at night,” he said. It was a survival skill I didn’t have. It wasn’t something I ever learned in school.
So I relocated to a new spot and thought I would sleep, but it was mostly half-sleep. Every noise or movement wakes you up. When the guy in the sleeping bag next to you moves, you wake up. When the lady a few sleeping bags away from you whispers in a panic, “Is that a rat?”, you wake up (actually, you jump up) and you look around for that rat.
You never realize how loud traffic is until you’re trying to sleep and you can’t because of car engines and stereos passing by. There’s a bar across the street from where we were sleeping. An argument started between some guys out front around 2 in the morning. It didn’t seem like it would ever end. After a while, all of this noise got so loud that it must have put me to sleep. Or, maybe the cold temperature outside put me to sleep?
Then, at 4 this morning I woke up to the sounds of police sirens. We were told that the police would be patrolling our area because of what we were doing, so I thought it was a routine stop. But it wasn’t. There was an apartment building about thirty feet away from where we slept. Whatever was happening there was serious enough for the police to have their guns out. This was definitely not part of the routine.
I never felt scared or that I was in danger at any time during this Sleep Out. And I made the choice to do it. What I kept thinking about was all the young people out there who sleep this way every night– scared, in danger, and without a choice. Like I wrote in an earlier post: it’s no way for anyone to live.
I met some incredible people last night– people whose lives have gone from homeless to hopeful. I want to see them continue on that path; to see them reach their full potential. We can all help them. Covenant House New Jersey raised more than $115,000 during last night’s Sleep Out! That’s well over their target goal of $75,000. That money will provide meals for the youth they serve for the next TWO YEARS and also go towards their educational programs.
Even though the Sleep Out has ended, the pledge drive has been extended through December. So, if you would still like to make a donation, simply go to the link: (http://covhou.convio.net/goto/DevanBlackwell). Thank you so much for your consideration and all the support you’ve given me. It kept me warm last night. –DBe