Dozens of people are spending Thursday night outside to raise money for programs serving homeless youth in D.C. as part of Covenant House Greater Washington's Spring Sleep Out.
“When you’re homeless, it doesn’t matter what the weather feels like, because you’re in a traumatic mental state, a traumatic physical state,” Covenant House board member Kelly Mikel Williams said.
He said he looks forward to the Sleep Out every year.
“It’s an exciting time for me, now; it’s an exciting time for me because now I’m able to express to those who are here what I was going through,” Williams said. “I’m able to express to those who are here what I was going through. I’m able to express to them, now, what 6,000 Washingtonians are going through every night.”
The organization provides services like housing, food, education and job training to youth ages 18-25 experiencing homelessness.
“It’s not an event to pretend that one is sleeping, or one is homeless, but rather an event to show solidarity with our young people to say we see you and we support you,” Covenant House Greater Washington CEO Angela Jones Hackley said.
Covenant House, which helps about 400 young people every year, holds an annual Sleep Out in November. This year it added one in the spring.
Williams uses the event to educate anyone he can and reflect on how far he’s come.
“I think back to when I was homeless, actually, and couldn’t get up,” he said. “At that moment in time, it was fear, it was concern, it was what do I do next? It was how do I survive?”
News4 caught up with the participants as they awoke early Friday morning.
"We got the real experience," Donna Cooper, regional president for Pepco and a board member of Covenant House, said. "Right next to us are also individuals who are homeless, who are on the streets, in tents, right beside us."
She said she saw a few rats near where advocates slept. The event is normally held in November when cold is a concern, but bugs and heat were more a problem in May, Cooper said.
"We are here for one evening, bringing attention to the issue... and we can go home," she said.
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