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January 2017 Support

On the Street for Awareness

As outside temperatures drop, it’s easy to take comforts like warmth and a dry place to sleep for granted. For the homeless, winter presents challenges that wear down spirits as frost permeates clothing and moisture lingers indefinitely, leaving a chill that’s hard to shake. Social Advocates for Youth hosted “One Cold Night” as an opportunity to experience (for one night) what the homeless go through every night. Volunteers slept outside the SAY Finley Dream Center in Santa Rosa, and for each one in the cold, SAY sheltered a homeless youth for the night.

Forty-six participants pledged to raise funds or donate a minimum of $2,500. “We raised more than $180,000, which is far and beyond what we were hoping to make,” says Stephanie Picard Bowen, volunteer and events coordinator for SAY. “We’re very lucky to be surrounded by such generous people. These funds will go towards housing youths and funding our career and counseling services.” Bowen adds the annual cost of housing a youth at the Dream Center is around $15,000. SAY served 7,777 youths and their families in 2016 through housing, career and family counseling.

“One of the most difficult things for the homeless to do when looking for a job is getting to work on time and looking clean,” Bowen says. “The Dream Center helps prepare them for their work and gives them an email address, a place to sleep and the materials they need to find a job and become self-sufficient. The funds from ‘One Cold Night’ will help many people achieve that dream.”

In addition to housing the youths, the sleeping bags the participants used for One Cold Night were provided by SAY, and will be donated to the needy.

Karissa’s Cold Night

If Sonoma County Winegrowers can help its community, President Karissa Kruse finds the way. While sleeping outside the SAY Finley Dream Center for “One Cold Night” fundraiser was a personal commitment, Kruse took the opportunity to reach out to her associates and friends and set the bar high. “Everyone pledged to raise $2,500 per person, and I really wanted to meet that goal,” she says.

She took a page out of NASCAR, selling endorsements and having business logos stitched to her sleeping bag. “I reached out to everyone I knew. I wanted to raise as much money as possible for this cause,” she says. “Even the logos were donated by a friend. I had a racecar sleeping bag.”

Kruse ended up raising $16,166, a little more than the rough estimate for housing a single youth at the Dream Center for an entire year.

The funds will go a long way to help youths reintegrate into the working world, but the night also had an impact on Kruse. “I only slept outside for one night, then was able to go back to my home and have privacy, a dry place to sleep and a hot meal. That’s not a prolonged homeless experience,” she says, “but it gave me a glimpse of what it can be like living on the street. Concrete is hard. It rained that night, and my boots and bag were soaked all night, and probably wouldn’t dry. We weren’t harassed, and there were no police officers telling us we couldn’t sleep where we were—that’s what they go through every day. Keeping a positive attitude and outlook in the face of such odds would be very difficult,” she says.


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