Full interview: Covenant House Alaska's candlelight vigil and sleep out
Covenant House Alaska's annual candlelight vigil and Executive Sleep Out is Thursday Nov. 21. It is an annual fundraiser and a way to raise awareness in the effort to end youth homelessness and trafficking.
On Monday, Joe Hemphill the chief development officer with Covenant House Alaska joined KTVA's Megan Mazurek to discuss the two events happening next week.
Below is a full transcript of the interview, edited for clarity.
Megan Mazurek: "It is a shelter for kids experiencing homelessness and trafficking and Covenant House Alaska is getting ready for its annual sleep out. It's a challenge for people to spend the night sleeping outside to experience what hundreds of kids do every day. Joining us tonight to explain how you can get involved is Joe Hemphill, the chief development officer for Covenant House Alaska. Thank you for being here tonight."
Joe Hemphill: "Hi Megan, thank you."
Megan: "Let's talk about the sleep out and the mission behind it."
Joe: "So every year we actually have two overlapping events. One is our candlelight vigil and the other one is sleep out. So we start in the street with the community at large and then we have designated sleep out champions this year. It's right at 50, who will then depart from the vigil and then they actually take a tour of homelessness. Which we, you know, we bring them to all the places where kids are our camping out and then back to the shelter where they interact with youth who are experiencing homelessness. We're meeting them in their space and then they sleep outside in our courtyard all night with a sleeping bag in a tent."
Megan: "I experienced this last year. I was part of the sleep out. I'm doing it again this year and it was a very impactful experience. What's the message that you've heard from people who have done it? What is their experience?"
Joe: "The number one thing you hear is just how difficult it is. It's a challenge nobody gets up in the morning and says 'I'll do it again tomorrow.' They say 'thank goodness that's over' and then they also very much have a better appreciation, more empathy for the young people in our community. And by our community of course I don't mean just Anchorage. I mean, really, it's statewide and of course it's a national epidemic, youth homelessness. But they have more empathy for what that youth is experiencing, who has no safe place to call home."
Megan: Covenant House is more than a safe place to sleep. You provide services to help kids transition from homelessness, to finding a place to live, to getting them on their feet.
Joe: "It's what we call wrap-around services. In total we have five different programs that offer everything from immediate shelter all the way through housing assistance and that housing assistance kind of is super involved and it's work that is done in the front end and then it's done again and again and again through relentless engagement to really provide that youth with all the support that they need to stay in their own home."
Megan: "It is amazing hearing the testimonials of kids you have helped in the past and you've helped hundreds of people."
Joe: "In fact, over 30 years we are in our 31st year, the numbers are actually close to 30,000. You can't really go out into the community of Anchorage to the Walgreens or the Walmart or the coffee shop without probably running into some youth or some adult who was a youth who needed Covenant House's help at some point, and that's okay. That's what we have been there for and will continue to be there for. To help produce opportunities for these kids to grow up and be out in the community working as whatever professional that works for them."
Megan: "So real quick let's talk about the candlelight vigil that's happening 5:30 p.m. next Thursday."
Joe: "5:30 p.m. on F Street between 6th and 7th right in front of our old shelter which is now Williwaw. We'll gather 5:30 p.m., the program starts at 6 p.m, by 6:30 p.m. we'll have you inside of Williwaw for a hot chocolate and coffee reception with the ukulele band from East High School. It's a come one come all, bring your family. There is a duffel bag challenge where we're asking groups, individuals, families to come together and they can find that information on our website I think starting tomorrow, but it's hats gloves things like that that we're asking people to bring. It's a way to start the holiday season in a warm way to reflect on youth that may or may not have had a supportive family to care for them during the holidays."
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