Sleep Out Saturday, when families throughout the county will sleep outside in front of their churches or homes to raise awareness and empathy for the homeless in our community. The event is sponsored by Bridge Communities, an organization whose mission is to help families move from homelessness to self-sufficiency.
Bridge Communities provides the families who are accepted to its program free housing for two years - the organization owns an number of apartment buildings - and offers them mentoring, social service assistance, and other resources to help them get back on their feet. Churches who partner with Bridge "adopt" a family. They pay the rent on the family's Bridge apartment for two years, and they provide volunteer mentors who meet with the family once a week over the course of those two years. It is a high investment - time and money - but with enormous returns. St. Timothy is nearly one full year into our partnership with our first Bridge family. Sleep Out Saturday feels even more important this year than it did last year (or the year before) for St. Timothy, because we are so connected to Bridge and it's mission.
I'm sleeping out tomorrow night in a tent on the church lawn. I'm braving the cold (overnight lows in the 30s) and I'm taking the risk of leading worship with bad hat-hair/bedhead on Sunday because I know how important an issue homelessness is.
I'm sleeping out because I'm one of the lucky ones who has a great family and a great safety net.
I'm sleeping out because I am one of the lucky ones who can afford to pay rent on an apartment even if I wish I owned a house.
I'm sleeping out because I am one of the lucky ones who is blessed with stable employment in an economy where jobs are hard to find and hold.
I'm sleeping out because I know that every family is more fragile than they want to believe they are.
I'm sleeping out because I know that homelessness is more often than not an effect of an otherwise stable family coming into hard luck; the face of homelessness is a mother losing her job or a family losing everything to high medical bills.
I'm sleeping out because I have a voice, and I am called to use that voice to speak on behalf of the voiceless.
So tomorrow night, when you are climbing into your nice, warm bed inside your nice, warm home, with a roof over your head and food in your kitchen and a job to go back to on Monday, remember me and my St. Timothy friends and all those throughout the county who have committed to sleeping in the cold for a good cause...but more importantly, remember all those people who don't have a home to look forward to after a long day, who don't have food to serve their families, nor a table to serve it on, who don't have any plans for Monday besides filling out more job applications at the public library or standing in line at the unemployment office.
If you've read all the way to this point, I would encourage you to think about whether you might want to contribute a few dollars to such a great cause. Did you know that every $25 raised for Sleep Out Saturday provides one night of shelter for a homeless family? It doesn't take a lot to make a big difference. So if you are able, please consider sponsoring our St. Timothy sleepers. Every little bit helps!