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Missouri Executives Brave Elements to Help Homeless Youth

Missouri business leaders are helping to raise awareness about youth homelessness by sleeping outside. (Covenant House Missouri)
Missouri business leaders are helping to raise awareness about youth homelessness by sleeping outside. (Covenant House Missouri)
November 21, 2019

ST. LOUIS – Instead of heading to the comfort of home after a day at the office, dozens of Missouri business leaders are gearing up for a cold night outside.

Covenant House Missouri is hosting its annual Sleep Out: Executive Edition in St. Louis to raise money for services that provide safety, shelter and support to young people experiencing homelessness.

Jennifer Erfling, CEO of Covenant House Missouri, says seven teams of executives will sleep outside in solidarity with young people who spend their nights on the streets.

"It is a very moving experience to deal with the elements, the sounds of the environment and to process what it would be like to have to face that,” Erfling states. “It's one thing to have to do it as a choice and then another reality sets in when you realize this is sometimes the only option for young people."

The Sleep Out is held in the courtyard on the Covenant House Missouri campus, and volunteers will stay from 6 p.m. Thursday until 6 a.m. Friday.

Last year, Erfling says Covenant House Missouri housed 176 people from 53 different zip codes in 11 different states.

More than 580 young adults ages 18 to 24 were experiencing homelessness in Missouri, according to the most recent point-in-time count.

Sleep Out participants will get to spend time with some of the young adults who will benefit from their fundraising efforts.

Erfling explains these youths often end up on the streets due to circumstances beyond their control, including trauma and financial difficulties.

She says their resilience is admirable.

"After the experiences they've had that have led them to the streets and surviving life on the streets they still have such a light that shines,” she states. “They want to find a better future and are seeking out opportunities to do that."

Meanwhile, Sleep Out America will be held on Friday, and is a DIY (Do-It-Yourself) event that allows folks from across the country to sleep outside and raise money for the roughly 4 million children in the U.S. who will face homelessness this year.

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - MO