It was 50 degrees late on a Friday afternoon as campers pitched small tents in Anchorage’s Kincaid Park. As the sun continued to drop, so did the temperature. By 10 p.m. the temperatue was getting significantly colder as they bundled up in their sleeping bags – making for a long night ahead.
The campers were part of Covenant House’s Sleep Out: Community Edition in Alaska on April 21. More than 100 people participated in the annual event, a one-night camp out to bring first-hand awareness of the challenges facing homeless youth in Alaska, while raising funds for resources to assist them. Among the participants were members of “Team AHFC” – Alaska Housing employees and their family members who braved the chilly temperatures.
‘An Eye-Opening Experience’
The event’s opening remarks left the crowd silent as they listened to the stories of homeless youth who had received assistance from Covenant House Alaska.
“Awareness of youth homelessness and trafficking was an eye-opening experience for me,” said AHFC’s Greg Rochon. “I look forward to supporting this event in the future and plan on making it an annual event with a grandkid or two to enlighten them to others’ struggles. It would be an important life lesson for them.”
Raising Awareness, Building Community
Megan Schmidt, who was captain of Team AHFC, said she was proud to have been part of the event that helped raise more than $107,000 for Covenant House Alaska “by giving up our beds and sleeping outside at Kincaid Park.”
While the focus of the event was to raise awareness and funds, it was also an opportunity to build a sense of community among participants. Sponsors provided prizes, food trucks, swag and a band for evening entertainment. Two fire pits were set up close to the tents for s’mores and conversation.
A Lasting Impression
By 7 a.m. Saturday morning, the temperature was only about 35 degrees. Most campers collapsed their tents quickly and went to their vehicles to head home. But for AHFC’s Kalinda Kindle, the time outside provided an important perspective.
“It was cold, and a bit uncomfortable sleeping on the ice but it left a big impact,” she said. “After Sleep Out, we left Kincaid Park at 6 a.m. and on the way back we saw several people experiencing homelessness sleeping on the sidewalk without a sleeping bag or any sort of shelter. It was humbling knowing I had a safe, warm place to sleep afterwards.”