Imagine being orphaned as a small child and then being tossed between foster family after foster family until finally growing too old to be provided foster care.
With only a third grade level competence and ongoing mental health issues, it becomes impossible to find a job. This makes sleeping under bridges or in shelters an everyday routine. With no guidance or care, falling prey to the harshness of the streets becomes a bleak inevitability.
Unfortunately, this was not an imaginary situation for Reggie Kelsey. Reggie’s body was found in the Des Moines River shortly after his release from foster care in 2001. Despite the efforts of the Iowa Homeless Youth Centers’ outreach team to qualify Reggie for federal disability payments, he was left without the care or financial assistance he needed to survive.
In response to Reggie’s case, Youth and Shelter Services, Inc. developed an outreach program called Preparation for Adult Living, PAL, formerly known as the Iowa Aftercare Services Network, to assist aging foster children with their adjustment into the adult world. In addition, a sleepout was created to increase awareness of youth homelessness in Iowa, now known as Reggie’s Sleepout.
This fall, Simpson will participate in the sleepout for the third year.
Admissions counselor Tiffany Hummel directed the Simpson Storm Sleepers’ team last year.
“I thought of the idea of creating the team when I saw the Sleepout advertised on a local news Web site a couple years ago,” Hummel said. “It seemed like an event that would interest the Simpson community and wouldn’t take much time away from students’ and staff members’ busy schedules.”
For the past two years, participants have collected donations and have slept outside for one night in support of Reggie’s Sleepout. With over $138,000 in donations raised last year by sleepers, participants are looking forward to an even more successful turnout in 2008.
“Last year, we were the largest team with 27 members,” Hummel said. “The Simpson Storm Sleepers team currently has 35 people signed up this year and $185.00 in donations thus far.
Students who previously participated in Reggie’s are excited for this year’s event as well.
“There is really nothing I didn’t like. I mean the whole experience was everything it should be,” sophomore Greg Rhoulhac said.
Rhoulhac thinks the experience would be beneficial to anyone.
Some students are also excited about participating in this year’s Sleepout for the first time.
“I think this will be a really fun way of showing our community how important it is to give back and be aware,” junior, Taylor Browning, said. “I look forward to being a part of the Sleepout this year, and hopefully next year, as well.”