Volunteers experience the rough sleeping of the homeless
Would you have slept outdoors voluntarily Friday night, when the low was expected to be 35 degrees?
Some volunteers did, to draw attention the homeless, who often have no choice but to sleep anywhere they can, even if outdoors in extremes of weather and where even their safety is not assured.
“Camping Out for Homelessness,” held in the parking lot outside JC Penney at Oak Hollow Mall, allowed volunteers to make a political statement while engaging in plenty of fun activities, with warm food and portable toilets, while under the watchful eyes of security personnel.
Organizers from one of the sponsors, High Point University Civitan Club, arrived early to help set up and pitched their tents in prime spots around the perimeter of the lot, on the softer grass. Many people who trickled in later said they were only staying until 1 a.m. today, when a break was planned to allow the less brave — and the more cold — to leave. Overnight campers planned to stay until 8 a.m. today.
Members of the Human Relations Commission and National Honor Society at Southwest Guilford High School planned to stay only until 1 a.m., mainly because their teachers weren’t game for a full night.
Stella Serger, a junior exchange student at Southwest from Germany, got to know homeless people in Germany because there they are concentrated in the centers of large cities, rather than spread out, as they are in High Point.
“I’ve always been interested in homelessness, and I’m not scared of the people because most of the time it’s not their fault they end up on the streets,” Serger said.
Chandler Eggleston and Ruben Hwasser, both Southwest seniors in the National Honor Society, wanted to help raise awareness and expand their own understandings.
“I’m trying to get a feel for how the homeless live in High Point,” Eggleston said. “And maybe doing this will get people to donate money to help them out.”
“I feel like after this I’m gonna feel like I’ve helped raise awareness, because it’s important for people to know what it’s like,” Hwasser said.
Michelle McNair and Alisha Doulen, both of whom work in community resources for the city of High Point, weren’t sure if they would make it all night, or only until 1 a.m. If they stayed, they planned to stay in their cars and brought plenty of blankets.
“People think that the homeless are sleeping in the street, but a lot are sleeping in their cars,” Doulen said.
Elizabeth Burns and Stefanie Vorleiter, both members of the HPU Civitan Club, planned to rough it out all night.
Vorleiter grew up in Honduras, a third-world county with lots of poverty, so when she had the opportunity to help in High Point, she jumped at the chance.
“We have so many privileges, and we don’t take the time to see people in need around us, and a lot of people are in need right in this town. So for this one night we can all step back and be thankful for what we have and show others the need in High Point,” Vorleiter said.
“I expect to be cold, but I hope to bring myself back down to earth,” Burns said. “Being out here sort of grounds us all and makes us remember why we’re here.”
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Sponsors: Open Door Ministries of High Point, High Point University Civitan Club, West End Ministries, Partners Ending Homelessness, city of High Point