ST. LOUIS — Covenant House will host its third annual Young Professionals Sleep Out event on March 20 with 21 sleepers so far, including six staff members participating. The event will take place outdoors in their nearby courtyard from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. the next day and aims to promote awareness and space for homeless youth across the city.
Covenant House is an international non-profit organization with youth shelters in 31 cities across six different countries. The organization provides homeless youth a safe place to sleep as well as resources to ensure a successful future.
Missouri’s Covenant House chapter, located in St. Louis along Kingshighway Boulevard, started in 1998 and provides 36 beds, including four emergency beds to homeless, at-risk, trafficked and runaway youth. Last year alone, the chapter helped 354 youth through their on-site programs, including moving 71 youth to stable housing. Covenant House Missouri’s website estimates 600 homeless youth sleep on the streets in St. Louis at any given time.
Events like Sleep Out provide awareness and money to the organization’s efforts. Each sleeper is encouraged to raise $1,000, though Kirsten Brauch, Events and Volunteer Coordinator, says to “aim high” when it comes to dollar amount. Brauch says it costs approximately $300 a day for a youth to live in St. Louis’ chapter. Besides housing costs, the fundraising money will go toward support services and basic needs for the youth.
Brauch, who works late hours to prepare for events like Sleep Out, says she has always had a “mission” to help homeless people. In high school, she participated in a sleep out event at her church for the now-closed Larry Rice homeless shelter and says she remembers the experience well. Her dad, who always carried around McDonald’s cards to hand to homeless people, and her interaction with students who were homeless during her teaching years, were among other experiences that brought her to Covenant House.
“I think the Sleep Out not only impacts those people who are participating but when they’re spreading the word and saying, ‘I’m sleeping out for a night so young people don’t have to in solidarity for them to show them that we care,’ that’s spreading the awareness that this is happening and that at any given night there are hundreds of homeless people in St. Louis sleeping outside,” Brauch says.
This year, Covenant House hopes to exceed the $9,840 they raised through the Young Professional Sleep Out event in 2019. So far, they have raised $8,241.25 of their $25,000 goal. Their Executive Sleep Out event raised over $385,000 last November.
One word Brauch says that resonates with the Sleep Out event is “impactful.” The access simulation, the beginning portion of the event, Brauch says, is what most participants say stand out the most because they were previously unaware of how difficult it is for homeless people to attain resources needed to survive.
“I always use the bridge analogy,” Brauch says. “If you’re walking across a bridge but there’s no supports, you’re just going to fall. So what we do here is build that support system and structure so our youth can walk across and feel safe and successful.”
Brauch says they take in youth all hours of the day and night, and sleep deprivation is a common experience for homeless youth.
“Imagine being outside in the elements and it’s raining or you’re in an abandoned building, there’s no temperature control and you’re worried about someone stealing your things,” Brauch says. “Imagine having constant anxiety all of the time and then finally getting a space here.”
Once kids enter Covenant House, Brauch says, “You finally start to see kids who, maybe look really sleep deprived, or look really anxious, start to let things go. They can finally get rest here.”
There is no deadline to register for the Sleep Out event. If St. Louisans want to help Covenant House but can’t attend the event, they can make a donation online or participate in one of the organization’s upcoming events, including a gala in April and a trivia night in June. Covenant House is also always looking for volunteers to help run their 24/7 services.
Of Covenant House, Brauch says, “We’re not a shelter; we’re a home.”
What: Covenant House’s Young Professionals Sleep Out Event
Where: 2727 N. Kingshighway Blvd. St. Louis, MO 63113
When: Friday, March 20 at 7 p.m. to Saturday, March 21 at 6 a.m.
Register at: stlouis.ypsleepout.org
For more information about Covenant House Missouri’s services and mission, visit their website at covenanthousemo.org.