A night in the life of a homeless teen-Reggie’s Sleepout raises awareness

A night in the life of a homeless teen-Reggie's Sleepout raises awareness

by Sam DeardenStaff Writer

Close your eyes and think for a minute. You’re attempting to fall asleep. It’s the end of October, and you’re outside in a bed that is a poorly constructed makeshift cardboard structure.

You’re hungry and shivering from the cold.

You look down and there are snowflakes where your feet poke out from the box.

Sound like fun? Maybe not, but last year 34 Simpson students endured those conditions during Reggie’s Sleepout, a night with food, games, music and sleeping outside at Drake University.

The Sleepout raises awareness and money for central Iowa’s homeless youth.

It is in memory of Reggie Kelsey, a young man who died in 2001 after being kicked out of the foster care system and ending up on the streets..

Tiffany Berkenes, assistant director of admissions, is the founder of the Simpson Storm Sleepers, who have attended Reggie’s Sleepout since 2006.

She learned of it on a news Web site three years ago and thought it would be a worthwhile activity for people to participate in.

“I thought Reggie’s Sleepout was a great opportunity to help the local community, as well as raise awareness about an issue that is so prominent throughout the world, yet overlooked and ignored,” Berkenes said.

Junior Greg Rhoulhac attended the Sleepout with Berkenes without knowing what kind of event it was.

“I really had no idea what it was at the time,” Rhoulhac said. “I had just gotten out of football practice and…my friends said they were going to Reggie’s Sleepout and wanted to know if I’d like to join and I said ‘sure.'”

At Rhoulhac’s first experience with Reggie’s Sleepout, he was served chili and hot cocoa provided by the local Salvation Army and went to see a concert in Drake’s stadium put on by a local Christian rapper.

“After all the fun and games came the sleepout, which is the whole reason for the event and boy was it tough,” Rhoulhac said. “You really have to find ways to stay warm when it is really cold and really windy and all that is protecting you is a cardboard box.”

Junior Sarah Keller has also taken part in Reggie’s Sleepout.

She spent her time reflecting on the conditions of people who truly are homeless.

“I thought about how cold and miserable I was, and I only spent one night out in the cold and there are people who have to do that every day of their lives,” Keller said. “Plus I had the luxury of going in and getting warm and being served warm foods.”

Keller took her experiences at Reggie’s Sleepout with her and was reminded of the circumstances the homeless face.

“I won a sleeping bag with the logo on it, and I used that sleeping bag all summer when I was a camp counselor,” Keller said. “I was reminded everyday of the good cause of the Sleepout, and I was constantly reminded to say a little prayer for the homeless.”

The next Reggie’s Sleepout is Saturday, Oct. 24.

Berkenes believes that it is a positive event for students to partake in.

“Giving up just 12 hours of the 8,765 hours in a year to make a difference is the least I could do, even if it is during the busiest time of my Admissions travel season!” Berkenes said.