Northland churchgoers sleep in their vehicles to raise awareness, money for homeless

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The cold temperatures won’t keep a group of church members in the Northland from sleeping outside Friday overnight.

On a night when temperatures are expected to be well below freezing, Jami Larson and her two boys are sleeping in their SUV. They’re among a group of about 20 people who braved the frigid temperatures to raise awareness about homelessness in the Northland.

“Everybody has their own circumstances that bring them to homelessness and understanding those and helping in ways that we can, that’s really important,” Larson said.

“We’re spending one night but we understand there are folks that spend many nights like that while they’re trying to get back on their feet,” said Rob Robinson, the organizer of Homeless for A Night, held at Park Hill Christian Church.

The awareness event was also a fundraiser for Family Promise of the Northland, a non-profit that partners with ten churches north of the river to provide shelter, meals and support to those experiencing homelessness.

“[Homeless people] are not under a viaduct or in a cardboard box, they’re living in their car because they got thrown out of their apartment or house, whatever,” said Robinson.

Different churches in the network host homeless children and families for a week, but those needing assistance can lean on the group for up to 16 weeks.

“They’ll come in Sunday night and stay through Saturday night,” Robinson explained. “So, they don’t have to pay for housing or food. If they need to get the car repaired, save up money for a down payment on an apartment, this gives them time to do that.”

Data collected from the non-profit estimates that there are more than 1,000 homeless children in the Northland alone.

“We think, ‘Oh north of the river, you don’t have those problems. That would be more urban core, inner-city,’” Robinson said. “The fact is we do have the problem and we can help give them a hand up, not a handout.”

“We should count our blessings every day because, through loss of a job or death of a family member – who knows the circumstances – we could find ourselves in a situation or need one day,” Larson added.

Larson, who wants to do more to address homelessness in her community, is hoping the overnight experience will also teach her boys to be more compassionate and thankful for what they have.

“Maybe they’ll think about things a little more when they wake up at home in a warm bed, and they can brush their teeth and use the restroom in privacy and have a nice warm breakfast,” she said. “There’s kids who don’t have that.”

Those who participated in Homeless for A Night also made care packages for the homeless. The event last year help raise $10,000 for Family Promise of the Northland, according to Robinson.

To learn more about the organization or to donate, click here.

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