February 3, 2011
Contact: Amanda Girardin, Middlesex County Coalition on Housing and Homelessness
860.346.8695 or AGirardinD13@gmail.com
Middlesex County Sleep-Out for Homeless Awareness
(Middlesex County, Connecticut, January 29, 2011) … Do you know where the county’s youth were sleeping? It was close to 10 o F and most of them were in bed, except for the daring group that gave up this comfort to spend the night outside in the cold to learn about homelessness. Thirteen diverse, faith-based organizations, in collaboration with the Middlesex County Coalition on Housing and Homelessness (MCCHH), came together to participate in a Homelessness Awareness Discussion and Sleep-Out on Saturday, January 29th.
As of 2009 there were 215 homeless people counted in Middlesex County, including 25 families with 46 children. Many of those counted were working and many were struggling with mental health issues. In 2010, 15% of the homeless people living in a shelter were victims of domestic violence and 28% were children.
Though diverse in background, sleep-out participants were unified in purpose: to increase the recognition of homelessness in Middlesex County, to decrease the stigma surrounding this vulnerable population and to increase awareness for prevention and reduction efforts taking place in the local community. Expanding from last year’s successful sleep-out, the goal of this year’s event was to attract more diverse faith-based youth groups from across the county and to bring awareness to the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness which is spearheaded by the MCCHH.
The evening began indoors at South Congregational Church in Middletown with a potluck supper of soup and bread. Despite limited parking and the threat of more snow, more than 125 residents from around the county turned out to grapple with their conceptions of homelessness. The night consisted of a presentation on the Ten Year Plan by Ed Bonilla of Middlesex United Way, a presentation on homeless populations by Amanda Girardin, Ten Year Plan intern, an interactive Hunger 101 program facilitated by CT Food Bank, and a visit and address by Mayor Sebastian Giuliano.
By far the most memorable part of the evening were the stories of homelessness shared by members of the LEADers in Homelessness Reality committee of the Ten Year Plan, Carla Witmer, Fred Pinero and Craig Clarke. The youth later had the opportunity to ask the LEADers questions such as the types of meals and food they eat and if there ever was a point when they felt they’d never have a real home again.
Faith organizations then split off to sleep out at different locations across the county including Chester, Deep River and Middletown. Similar to the experiences of the homeless population, methods of sleeping out varied. While some opted to sleep in their cars without heat, others set up complicated card board box huts with sleeping bags with only tarps between them and the ground. Huddled in their bags, uncomfortable, and trying to ignore the pins and needles in their freezing toes, the youth were asked to imagine what it would be like to do this every night.
In late 2007, a group of community volunteers came together to form the Middlesex County Coalition on Housing and Homelessness for the purpose of implementing the county’s Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness. Since the Coalition began its work, the county has seen a 30% reduction in homelessness among single adults and a 36% reduction in homelessness among families. Through the creation of permanent supportive housing, the operation of a Homelessness Prevention Fund, the development of outreach and education programs to help homeless people find and retain jobs, and improving coordination of services for the homeless, the Coalition is dedicated to achieving its goal of “An End In Ten”—eradicating the tragedy of homelessness from our communities by 2018.
For more information on the Middlesex Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness please visit our website at AnEndInTen.org or follow us on Facebook at An End In Ten.