CEO Sleepout - My Night On The Streets...

Okay, it was not exactly a night on the streets. We had coffee, companionship, and all-night access to a biffy. Still, 34 CEOs gathered in the park last night to sleep under the stars, contemplating the issue of homelessness.  The event, put on by Today House Inc, aimed at raising awareness about the growing issue of homelessness in Steinbach, and the dire need for affordable housing.

I'd love to hear the experience others had - was it deep, life changing, surprising...?  

I attended as a volunteer with Steinbach Community Outreach. My hope was to learn more about what local programs offer, and to gain a sliver more of understanding about the life of someone who is homeless or desperately poor. 

As I attempted to squeeze everything into a backpack (we would each carry our packs on the walk across town to various organizations), suddenly everything I owned became impractical or unnecessary.  

And yes, to me gum for fresh breath is a necessity :)

Here's what I took. The weather was mild enough that I didn't need the toque, and it was too dark and busy to journal. But the sweater and wooly socks saved me. Ten degrees makes for one chilly sleep!

Packed and ready to go, I couldn't help pacing through the house, scanning each room for that one thing I must be forgetting. I ended up taking silent stock of all the things I wanted that I couldn't have. Coffee. Pillows. Sudoku. Light. Heat. A book to read. 

My heart rate quickened as I felt the twinge of leaving. 
...What would this be like if I were doing this for real? 

20C when I left, but anticipating 10C at night.
How to layer without wearing it all at once?
Tie it on ... everywhere.
A brisk 1/4 mile trek (each hauling our packs) to the soup kitchen started off the evening. We arrived tired and sweaty, starting to glimpse another reality. Over soup and a slice of bread, we listened to stories of people who come to the Soup Kitchen, and why. Regular people like you and me. Often things happened beyond their control. Poverty and homelesness can happen to anyone; even community leaders.
After touring three facilities (Soup Kitchen, Community Outreach and the local food bank), - about 2 miles in total - we heard speakers from other organizations describe their services and experiences with the poor and homeless. 
Presentations ended at midnight, with a smile and wave "Goodnight!"

40 people wandered the park, scouting the best sleep spots. 
What a weird exercise. 
What makes a good spot? How can there be such a thing? (I never realized how well-lit the park is...) I chose a patch of grass, tossed and turned for an hour, and gave up, deciding to chat by the fire instead.

Around 3:00am I gave in and scouted a spot by a bed of flowers. Stars shimmered above. The moon glowed beyond tall dainty flowers and it was so... breathtaking. I needed to capture the moment. 

But I couldn't.  
So I tossed the camera into my pack and tried to memorize the moment instead. 

After a few hours of sleep, I woke to the chatter of CEOs cupping warm coffee in the gazebo. Over donated muffins and cheese, we compared notes about the night. While we smiled and rubbed our eyes, news crews milled about taking pictures (oh goody) and interviews. (Here's one article & photo)

My Take Away: 

- I loved seeing community influencers participate. Some were immediately compelled to action and brainstormed solutions on the spot. They seemed like a caring bunch of leaders who were said to be 'generous' and 'hand-picked not because of their big wallets, but their big hearts'. I look forward to seeing fruit from this seed.

-Sleeping outside is tiring. The ground is cold and unforgivingly hard. Traffic whirs by unstopping, ambulances scream, and yellow light spills around every corner leaving a person exposed. It's not at all like the cowboy movies would have us believe... 

- There are so many compassionate people with so much love to give. I'm humbled to be part of this community - this team of servants. I was made to see some of my invisible teammates last night. I hope to remember that the next time I feel alone in ministry. Or the next time someone else does. We are not alone. 

Thank you to the Today House team for initiating this - for speaking and standing for those who can not. Thank you for using your skills, knowledge and influence to affect positive change and motivating your peers to do the same.  Thank you for letting me be a part of it! 


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