On November 18, hundreds of people throughout the Chicago area will give up their beds for one night to ensure that youth facing homelessness can sleep safely at Covenant House Illinois (CHIL), a mission-led Chicago nonprofit.
The “Sleep Out” is a way for people to demonstrate their empathy and commitment to youth (ages 18–24) who do not have shelter or a bed of their own. It’s also an important fundraiser to enable Covenant House Illinois to continue its service and mission of providing young people a path out of homelessness.
“Sleep Out is a unique and powerful experience for caring folks to come together and stand in solidarity with our city’s young people struggling with the devastation of homelessness,” says CHIL Executive Director, Susan Reyna-Guerrero. “Participation in Sleep Out helps amplify the voices of our youth and represents another step forward in CHIL’s fight to eradicate youth homelessness. Our supporters are the lifeblood of this organization, and we cannot win this fight without them.”
Among those sleeping out will be James Coleman, Accenture’s Senior Managing Director for its Chicago office. Jim and his wife, Cari, are serving as inaugural chairs for CHIL’s 2021 Sleep Out: Chicago, which aims to enlist approximately 250 sleepers and raise $500,000. Coleman, a veteran Sleep Out participant and fierce advocate for the cause, is looking to exceed that amount by generating support within Chicago’s corporate community to directly benefit CHIL.
The need is great and growing.
In the city of Chicago alone, approximately 2,000 youth face homelessness on any given night. CHIL is open 24/7 for young people in need of safe shelter, warm meals, educational opportunities, job training, medical services, mental health and substance use counseling, legal aid, and more.
Because of CHIL’s breadth of services, donations large or small go a long way toward making a difference in the lives of young people facing homelessness. For example, just $30 provides two new personal hygiene kits and toiletries; $50 means three nutritious meals for a resident every day for one week. A $100 donation affords essential 24-hour care for a youth in crisis for one day, while $1,000 provides workforce training, so a young person facing homelessness can apply for and secure a job.
“By sleeping outside for just one night,” Coleman says, “our Chicago-area community can help Covenant House Illinois provide more young people in need with their own safe night’s sleep—something so many of us take for granted—along with the resources they can use to build a brighter future.”
“We know that each young person who walks through Covenant House doors is capable of great things,” he adds. “That’s why we are so passionate about empowering them to feel hope and helping them find a path to overcoming homelessness. We do this by strengthening their resilience through relentless support and respect.”
Covenant House Illinois has attracted the support of leaders throughout Chicago and the North Shore, given its mission and the overwhelming need for its services. Nancy Kearney, CHIL Board Member and Founder/Owner of Kearney Consulting LLC says, “After moving to Chicago in late 2018, I was dismayed by the number of not just homeless, but young homeless people. I brought clothing to some, took others to get something to eat, and once even traipsed around with a young woman to four Metra card machines to purchase her a ticket so she could ride and sleep on the train. Speaking with these young people, I learned some of their stories, and as heartbreaking as they were I was also struck by how avoidable all of this seemed.”
“I was working for Allstate at the time, a company with a particularly strong philanthropic ethic and a commitment to active support and authentic engagement,” she continues. “Through the Allstate Foundation, I learned about the mission and work of Covenant House and that a recently opened Illinois site was recruiting Board members. The rest is history.”
Prior to leaving Allstate, Kearney also orchestrated a donation of furniture and equipment for CHIL’s new facility on Chicago’s west side. Working with her Allstate colleagues Brandi Landreth and Russ Snyder, Kearney was able to procure office and lounge furniture to almost completely outfit CHIL’s expanded space.
“Nancy’s work in securing CHIL this donation is greatly appreciated and is wholly indicative of her deep commitment to the organization and the young people we serve,” said Susan Reyna-Guerrero.
Kearney is excited about the prospect of Sleeping Out and for the opportunity to raise critical funds to help CHIL execute its mission and reach even more young people struggling with the devastation of homelessness.
“In joining the Sleep Out, she explains, “people from all walks of life can become part of this community to provide shelter and security so these young people can look to the promise of a better tomorrow. Let’s stand together in the fight to end homelessness.”
The 2021 Sleep Out is open to anyone and offers people the option to participate in-person at Covenant House Illinois headquarters, 2934 W. Lake Street, Chicago, or virtually by sleeping out at home, with neighborhood friends, or anywhere outside the comfort of their own bed.
Since opening its doors in February 2017, Covenant House Illinois has provided support and services to more than 1,100 youth, including over 13,400 nights of shelter and safety, and an average drop-in rate of 20–25 visits each day. To expand its capabilities for helping more young people in need, Covenant House Illinois recently moved into a new facility that offers additional space and increased support services in Chicago’s Garfield Park area.
Covenant House Illinois is affiliated with Covenant House, an international organization with facilities in 31 cities across six countries. Since its founding in 1972, Covenant House has provided housing and support services to more than 1,000,000 boys and girls and continues to serve more than 50,000 young people in need every year.
For more information or to get involved, visit covenanthouseil.org.