[Hpn] SLEEP-OUT excludes Homeless People. What LESSONS do Church Youth learn? learn?

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Tue, 9 Jan 2001 17:12:05 -0800 (PST)

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What LESSONS do children learn from a Church group's choice to _not_
include homeless people in their SLEEP-OUT?  (What we have here is _indeed_
a "teaching moment"!)

FWD  Birmingham News - 03 January 2001


     KIM BRYAN - News staff writer

Sarah Aultman recently spent one of the coldest nights of the year in the
parking lot of her church, trying to gain a realistic perspective of what
it is like to be homeless.

It was worse than she imagined.

Her lips cracked and bled. Her legs shook. She touched her face, but there
was no feeling.

Miss Aultman said that before her experience, she found it difficult to
look a homeless person in the eyes. That's changed. "I know how they feel,"
she said.

Miss Aultman was among 30 members of the Pleasant Grove United Methodist
Church youth group who spent Dec. 21 in the church parking lot. She was one
of six who made it until the event ended at 7 a.m.

Weeks ago when church youth director Myrle Grate and members of his group
began planning for the event, they had no idea that temperatures would
plummet to 15 degrees. Grate considered canceling as weather predictions,
including bitter winds and freezing rain, grew gloomier.

"I thought about the safety of the kids and worried about them and their
parents getting to and  from the church on icy roads," he said.

"I decided if I had six kids, I'd have it," Grate said. "A homeless person
doesn't get to decide when to sleep on the street, so we stuck with our
plan to go with it, just like homeless people have to do."

Part of the deal was that the youth were to arrive at 7 p.m. dressed in
jeans and T-shirts. They could use only the blankets and clothes they had
solicited themselves. For this particular effort, some church members,
relatives and residents bought new blankets, to boggans and jackets rather
than contributing what they had on hand.

The contributions will be given to the City of Hope, a rescue mission in

The youth set up cardboard boxes and warmed themselves by fires in oil
drums donated by Hanna Steel. They talked about how people could endure
such conditions night after night. They played games, talked and watched
their water supply slowly freeze.

"I kept thinking how awful it must be to be on the street with no friends
and no fire," said Miss Aultman, a senior at Pleas ant Grove High School.

Miss Aultman's 15-year-old brother, Al, also made it through the 12-hour
ordeal. Two days later, his doctor prescribed antibiotics for the stuffy
nose, headache and sore throat that followed his adventure.

"I would do it again," Al Aultman said. "The conversations we had during
the night made us grow closer. It was really, really cold. It gave me an
idea of what it's like outside in the real world for homeless people."

At 1 a.m., Grate insisted that many of his youth go inside the church
building, where the thermostat was set at 40 degrees.


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