LAKEWOOD: Youths panhandle & sleep out to raise awareness for the homeless

LAKEWOOD: Youths panhandle & sleep out to raise awareness for the homeless
Youth congregation from 2014 Sleep Out for the homeless. (Source: WOIO)
Youth congregation from 2014 Sleep Out for the homeless. (Source: WOIO)

LAKEWOOD, OH (WOIO) - For the past 11 years, youth at

, an open and affirming congregation of the United Church of Christ (UCC), have sought to better understand the challenges Northeast Ohio's homeless population faces each day, particular in the cold winter months.

Once again, more than 30 members of LCC's Youth Fellowship will experience exactly this – being without warm shelter on a cold winter night – on Saturday, January 17, during the 11th Annual Homeless Awareness Sleep Out.

The adolescents will spend the night soliciting donations from the street and sleeping in cardboard boxes in front of the church building.

The sleep out calls sheds light on the struggles Northeast Ohio's homeless community faces everyday and raises funds for multiple homeless support agencies.

This year, youth from Lakewood's Faith Lutheran Church will be joining to support this cause in front of Lakewood Congregational Church, 1375 West Clifton Blvd., on the northeast corner of West Clifton Boulevard and Detroit Avenue.

Also happening Saturday night, youth from St. Peter's Episcopal Church, 18001 Detroit Ave., also will support local homeless awareness agencies with a sleep out on their church grounds on the south side of Detroit Avenue, at West Clifton Boulevard -- across the street from Lakewood Congregational.

At LCC, participating youth, ranging in age from 11 years old to 18 years old (grades 6-12), will gather in the church narthex on Jan. 17 at 3 p.m. to start constructing their box shelters – the only source of shelter they will have until late Sunday morning.

Around 6 p.m., the LCC and Faith Lutheran team of young “panhandlers” will head outside to the front of the church and spend the evening canvassing the block, seeking for money from passersby and being without the comforts they are used to – heat, solid shelter, food, money. They also are prohibited from using any sort of electronics during the evening's event. The group will retire to their box shelters by 1 a.m. and will be roused by 6 a.m. on Sunday to resume seeking donations and will continue doing so until noon that day, pausing only to share their experiences from the evening at LCC's 10 a.m. worship service.

“For 18 hours, our mid-high and high school youth, as well as those from Faith Lutheran and St. Peter's churches, will experience what it feels like not to have warm shelter or a comforting meal on a cold winter night,” said Rev. Mark Thomas of Lakewood Congregational Church “It's a true reality check, for both the kids and the community donating to the cause.”

Last year, the group raised nearly $4,600 to support local homeless awareness agencies. This year, funds collected will support HandsOn Northeast Ohio and the 2015 Homeless Stand Down, Family Promise of Greater Cleveland, Y-Haven, and the United Church of Christ's Lotts Creek Kentucky Work Experience.

For those who want to make a cash or in-kind donation prior to the event, contact the LCC office at 216.221.9555. Visit the church website at

to find out more about LCC and the United Church of Christ.

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