Organization wants to bring attention to the number of homeless children in Clark County
The local chapter of a national organization is asking Clark County residents to go a Night Without a Bed on Saturday to raise awareness for family and child homelessness.
Dave Cole, the executive director of Family Promise of Clark County, said there was an interesting observation from a child who participated in the campaign last year.
“It was really tough. I slept on our floor. The next day I had to run a mile. My body was so stiff,” Cole recalled the message.
Now imagine that every night, Family Promise asks.
“That’s what it’s like for homeless children every day,” Cole said. “What if you had to sleep in a car and the next day perform on a math test? Unfortunately, that’s the reality of so many children.”
Families with homes, with beds, are being asked to sleep in the living room, on the couch, on the floor, or perhaps even in the car. One of the goals is to start a conversation, Cole said. Make a video, take a picture, or journal about it and post on social media with the hashtag: #NightWithoutABed.
“Typically, when we think of homelessness, we think of people on the side of the street, holding up signs, the people in tents,” Cole said. “The majority of homeless people are the people double-upped in other people’s homes, sleeping on floors, couch surfing, or even sleeping in cars.”
For children, Cole said, it is traumatizing. He noted that children who are experiencing homelessness are three times more likely to be placed in a special education program and up to nine times more likely to have to repeat a grade. Nearly half suffer from anxiety and/or depression. And those children are seven times more likely to commit suicide.
Cole said at the last report, 2,500 children in Clark County schools have experienced homlessness.
That homeless child goes to school with a heavy burden.
“I don’t have a home to call my own and everyone else at school does,” Cole said of the thinking of a homeless child. “Their reality is they feel they are the only ones in that situation.”
The Night Without a Bed campaign also is intended to teach youngsters that some of their classmates could be struggling.
“We want this to be a conversation families have with each other,” Cole said. “We want to show more compassion and be more supportive of those experiencing homelessness.”
This social media campaign could be compared to the ice bucket challenge from a few years ago that raised money to fight ALS. Only, in this challenge, go a night without a bed, challenge friends to do the same, and if one is moved to donate, please do so at https://www.familypromiseofclarkco.org/donate
Family Promise of Clark County is based in Camas but serves all of the county. It specializes in helping families. A child is required for a family to receive services. Family Promise partners with 26 churches and other community organizations.
Families can spend the day at the center in Camas. At night, the Family Promise drops off families at one of the churches that provides overnight accomodations. Families stay together, Cole said.
While using Family Promise’s services, the adults can focus on building a new life, invest in themselves.
“We’re helping them get back on their feet with a hand up versus a handout,” Cole said. “While in our program, you don’t have to worry about where you’re going to sleep, where your next meal is going to come from. We want you … to bring your family out of poverty and into safe, affordable housing.”
This Saturday, Family Promise is asking those with homes to forget about the comfort of a bed for one night.
“The social media challenge is bringing awareness, the reality, of how many families, particularly children, are being affected by homelessness,” Cole said.
To spread that awareness, post the experience on social media or send an email to Family Promise at firstname.lastname@example.org.