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