Sleep Out & Vigil
Plymouth and Neighbor 2 Neighbor 17th Annual
Homelessness Prevention Vigil and Youth Sleep Out
Saturday, December 4-5, 2021
Vigil at 5 pm North Parking Lot Patio of Plymouth UCC
We are live and in person this year for the 17th annual Homelessness Prevention Vigil and Youth Sleep Out! Last year we persevered through extreme social distancing in Plymouth’s north parking lot with a video vigil shown to us on a blow-up screen in the back of two pick-ups and the sound coming to our cars through FM radio. And all our teen programming was through Zoom and each teen slept out in their own backyard.
This year we can all gather for the vigil at the steps of the patio in the north parking lot as we have traditionally done with barrel fires, live music and inspirational speakers. Sister Mary Alice Murphy, one of the founders of the Homelessness Prevention Program, will inspire us with her passion for serving the poor and dis-enfranchised. New to our vigil speaker line-up will be Fort Collins mayor, Jenny Arndt who has been on the front lines of social justice issues for many years in Colorado state government. Our high school teens and their adult sponsors will have a soup supper and breakfast (provided by the Outreach and Mission Board) outside on the Plymouth lawn. Their educational activities will be socially distance and masked in our fellowship hall. They will sleep out in their traditional cardboard boxes on the front lawn in solidarity with homeless people who only have cardboard box shelters to sleep in year around.
Perhaps you are new to Plymouth and to this Plymouth staple of holiday traditions…WHAT EXACTLY IS THE HOMELESSNESS PREVENTION VIGIL AND SLEEPOUT? It is an annual event in which high school youth sleep outdoors in cardboard boxes to raise awareness of the issue of homelessness in our community and gain empathy for the incredible challenges that homeless individuals face on a daily basis. As part of this event, youth also participate in an educational session focused on the complex nature of homelessness and its impact on both individuals and communities. To engage the wider community in this event, there is also a vigil in which people of all ages are invited to listen to a variety of speakers discuss various facets of the issue of poverty in Northern Colorado. Most importantly, the Sleepout is a fundraiser for Neighbor to Neighbor’s Homeless Prevention Program, which provides rental assistance to help keep individuals and families in their homes. The need for Neighbor to Neighbor’s services is up 2000% in 2020, which means the money raised from this event is much-needed and will be put to good use in our community!
In the early 2000s Plymouth’s Senior Minister, the Rev. Hal Chorpenning began meeting Sister Mary Alice Murphy and others from St. Joseph and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic parishes to brainstorm how homelessness can be prevented rather than “cured.” They developed a non-profit, the Homelessness Prevention Initiative, for providing rental assistance to keep families out of homelessness. HPI is now the Homelessness Prevention Program of Neighbor 2 Neighbor. N2N estimates that, once a family becomes homeless, the per household costs of a temporary shelter housing, emergency room visits, agency services, food baskets, and the new housing total $5,000 or more per family. A cost of $300 rental assistance per family looks pretty good compared to $5,000!
For over 12+ years, many Plymouth volunteers staffed the application and interview processes for families to receive assistance. At the recommendation of a Plymouth member who had recently transferred from a UCC church in Minnesota, the idea for the youth sleepout to raise funds took shape. This is a village – Plymouth and Larimer county social justice non-profits and other front range faith communities – helping another village – our Larimer county neighbors who need help staying in their homes. You can find more information on the Plymouth/Neighbor 2 Neighbor Homelessness Prevention Program Sleep Out and Vigil on the Plymouth website.
Join us this Saturday, December 4, 2021 at 5 pm for the 17th Annual Sleep Out Vigil!
See you Saturday at 5 pm at the Vigil as we sing, pray and are inspired by those on the front lines of eradicating homelessness in Larimer County!
With you on the journey,
Brooklyn is Plymouth's Director of Christian Formation for Children & Youth. She has served in local church and student ministries for the past several years. A native of northern Colorado, Brooklyn has professional experience leading in worship, youth, and children’s programs. Read her full bio here.
Small but Mighty
I am sure a lot of us are living with pandemic fatigue. That fatigue is making it harder and harder to show up for things. We are all exhausted. I know our young people are especially feeling this. I spoke with a student last week about how COVID interrupted her freshman year – she’s a junior now.
Together, we reflected on how across the board, groups are feeling smaller. Like I said, it’s harder now to show up for things. But I want to take a second to brag on the students who are showing up.
These are students who are still excited about building community and serious about respecting each other. These are students who are motivated to see this year’s Sleepout succeed. These are students who will show up for the Alternative Giving Fair because they care about the mutually supportive relationship between our youth program and Equal Exchange. These are students who ask good questions and are willing to explore together for good answers. Our group may be small, but it is mighty.
Every student that I have had the chance to get know – from the little ones in Sunday School all the way up to our seniors in high school – has impressed me and blessed me. Spending time with them is the life-giving antidote that I need for my pandemic fatigue.
What’s life-giving for you? How are you feeding your soul right now? If you would like to be inspired by these students, come see them at the Alternative Giving Fair or support them during Sleepout. In any case, I hope you have a life-giving practice that you’re committing to, especially as we enter into the busyness of the holidays.
P.S. Learn more about the Alternative Giving Fair or this year’s Sleepout.
Brooklyn is Plymouth's Director of Christian Formation for Children & Youth. Brooklyn has served in local church and student ministries for the past several years. A native of northern Colorado, Brooklyn has professional experience leading in worship, youth, and children’s programs. Read her full bio here.
When I took over as Plymouth’s Interim Director of Christian Formation for Youth back in August, one of the first things I received was an invitation to join a committee to help plan the 2020 version of one of Plymouth’s longest-lasting and most beloved traditions: the Neighbor to Neighbor Homelessness Prevention Sleepout. As someone who participated in this event every year as a high schooler, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to help make this year’s Sleepout a transformative experience for our youth and a successful fundraiser for Neighbor to Neighbor, which provides emergency rental assistance to help Northern Colorado families stay in their homes during times of financial hardship. However, I was also very aware that pulling off an event like the Sleepout in the midst of a pandemic would be no small feat.
The Sleepout is a tradition that thrives on community: working together to construct shelters out of cardboard boxes that will (hopefully) survive the night; participating in a community vigil; sharing a soup supper; and falling asleep knowing that inside every box strewn across the Plymouth lawn is another person who is just as cold as you are. At its core, the Sleepout is an exercise in solidarity, both with the other youth and adults braving a cold December night and with the homeless individuals in our community who face these conditions every day. So, in this year of social distancing and redefining what it means to be in community, the team of youth and adults planning the Sleepout have had to get a bit more creative than usual in order to find ways to prioritize health and safety while keeping the communal spirit of this event alive.
Thankfully, our Sleepout Committee was not short on creativity and a willingness to think outside the box! Can’t host the traditional community vigil because of the need for social distancing? No problem, we’ll just create our own drive-in movie theatre in the Plymouth parking lot and invite members of the community to watch a pre-recorded vigil from their individual cars. Can’t have a large gathering of youth all sleeping out on the lawn at Plymouth? That’s okay, we’ll provide the boxes and materials to allow the youth to construct a shelter and sleep out at their own homes. No way to host an in-person educational session to help our youth delve deeper into the complexities of housing insecurity and homelessness? Good thing we’ve all spent the past eight month perfecting our Zoom skills so we can host the educational sessions virtually instead!
This year has certainly provided us all with our fair share of lessons, and one of my biggest personal takeaways is an increased appreciation for the unique opportunities that can arise from challenging circumstances. We have all been forced to rise to the occasion and redefine the ways that we work, study, socialize, and worship, and at the Sleepout on December 5, we’ll have the opportunity to redefine one of our most beloved church traditions!
For more information about this year’s Sleepout or to make a donation, visit plymouthucc.org/sleepout
If you are interested and able, we would love to have you join us for a drive-in style community vigil in the Plymouth parking lot at 5:30pm this coming Saturday, December 5.
Alli Stubbs is our interim Director of Christian Formation for Youth. Read more