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Ohio youth spend night outside to raise money for homeless community

By Camryn Justice

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    LAKEWOOD, Ohio (WEWS) — A group of kids and teens braved the winter weather and spent the night outside to bring awareness to Cleveland’s homeless problem in the 18th annual Homeless Awareness Sleep-Out.

The event brings youth ranging in age from 11 to 18 out to the Lakewood Congregational Church around 5:30 p.m. to start raising money from passersby as they line the sidewalks and corners. Holding signs, chanting loudly and using tools like cowbells and pots and pans to draw attention to them.

This year, the money the youth raises will be donated to four different organizations—Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, Y-Haven, Family Promise of Greater Cleveland and St. Paul Community United Church of Christ Homeless Outreach Program.

For sixth-grader Avery Spahr, this event is something she was thrilled to participate in as a way to give back.

“It’s a really meaningful experience for all of us who are out here tonight,” Spahr said. “It really means something to me that we’re helping somebody less fortunate that really warms my heart.”

The participants raise money until 11 p.m. From there, the kids head to bed—but not at home in their warm beds. To get a feel for a night without a home, the kids sleep in makeshift shelters made from cardboard boxes, braving the cold and getting a lesson in empathy along the way.

“It’s a cold night, we do it purposely when it’s a cold night, it kind of adds the wow factor, wakes people up,” said Homeless Awareness Sleep-Out co-chair Brad Humphreys. “In the morning they wake up and they immediately realize doing this a second day in a row would be absolutely punishing and it brings a sense of empathy into our unhoused situation in Cleveland.”

Freshman Cora Barcelona understands that it’s just one night and aimed to make the gesture to not only to raise money, but to spread awareness to the issue.

“The world isn’t a perfect place right now but any little thing you can do can be a great help,” Barcelona said. “One night in the cold and staying up until 11 p.m. trying to get donations is a smidgen of trouble compared to anything that can help someone else.”

The groups will continue collecting donations through the evening and also have a site where they accept online donations.

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