More than 60 business leaders from across the Philadelphia area spent their night on cold asphalt — sleeping on the street — to raise awareness and money to put an end to youth homelessness.
The group, which included executives from companies like Toll Brothers and the Philadelphia 76ers, took part in Covenant House Pennsylvania’s Executive Sleep Out overnight Friday. In its fourth year, the annual event challenges company leaders to share in the challenges homeless young people face every single day trying to live without a home.
Each participant is given a cardboard box, sleeping bag, trash bag and some newspaper and offered a spot on the ground outside Covenant House's Germantown crisis shelter. The supplies are sometimes much more than homeless youth have to shelter themselves while living on the street.
“We have folks that have done it all four years, that have come back every year because they care about helping Philadelphia’s homeless youth,” Covenant House Pennsylvania Executive Director John Ducoff said.
Hundreds of Philadelphia youth are homeless, surveys show. But government officials, outreach workers and experts all agree those numbers are likely much higher. A national point-in-time count conducted in January by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found 180,760 people under age 25 were homeless. Those were the kids that were found and self-identified.
Young people between ages 18 and 24 are among the most vulnerable thanks to a lack of services tailored specifically to them. They’re legal adults, but lack the social skills, education and emotional support their peers with stable homes and families get. Adult shelters are focused on the chronically homeless — many who have mental and physical health needs — who young people are scared to be around.
Covenant House is the only shelter in Philadelphia that serves this community exclusively. They offer shelter, food, education and job training, but the facility only can serve 60 people. The shelter turns away 30 young people, on average, every month because of a lack of space.
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An NBC10 Digital Exclusive investigation — Faces of Homeless Youth — delved into the issue recently. In the two month long probe, our team spent time on the street and in Covenant House speaking with 17 current and formerly homeless youth.
“Youth homelessness is a silent epidemic. We need to name it. We need a community of people who wraps around our kids and says we’re going to help these kids transform their lives and build a bridge from homelessness to hope,” Ducoff said.
Events like the sleep out puts the issue in front of people and, just as importantly, raises money to help provide programs and services. This latest sleep out raised more than $250,000, Ducoff said. Additional donations are still coming in.