Charity is something many adults do not expect to find in children, but 13-year old Alex Honoré has been raising awareness for homelessness at San Diego’s annual sleepover event since she was five. She is saddened by the number of children who have no home to go to afterschool and speaks out to acquaint her classmates and others with the magnitude of what is often an invisible problem. San Diego Rescue Mission’s (SDRM) president, Herb Johnson, recognizes Alex exceptional contributions to the cause for the last several years because of her mature eloquence, zeal, poise and intelligence. Her advocacy joins with others at the event to educate attendees about the epidemic of homelessness and encourages them to get involved in solving the problem year round.
The Sleepless San Diego charity fundraiser event aspires to draw attention to the over 8,500 men, women and children in the city that face the plight of homelessness on a daily basis and make young people aware of how they can be part of the solution. SDRM started the event in 2007, which has gained in popularity over the years, raising over $100,000 at each event to assist the Mission in its quest to battle homelessness. Although they acknowledge that the sleepover is not the same as a true homeless experience, it gives participants a small taste of the difficulties that the homeless face and ignites humanitarian energies that start people talking about how they can be part of the solution.
The SDRM began its charity work in 1955 when a coalition of church and business leaders took note of the increasing dilemma with homelessness and hunger. The first soup kitchen offered clothing, meals and spiritual guidance and later added short-term shelters and other services. In 1988, the Mission began offering education and vocational training as well, to equip their residents with the skills to find long-term solutions to homelessness. The organization has continued to grow its charity efforts to serve the neediest elements of society, and is capable of providing about 12,500 nights of shelter, 37,000 meals and over 82,000 education, job training, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and Christian discipleship to the community they serve.
This year’s Sleepless San Diego charity fundraiser event will take place on Oct. 11-12, 2014. Participants will learn about the problems the homeless face every day through simulated experiences, engage in games, competitions and a care package station, attend live music shows, art displays and video presentations and discuss viewpoints on homelessness and the efforts to help. Attendees can come with school or youth groups, family or friends and stay late or sleepover to get a small taste of what it is like to be without the comforts of home and a soft warm bed each night.
Johnson estimates that around 75 percent of the participants in the charity event are youth and college students so the SDRM highlights the problem of homeless students. The number of homeless children reported by the San Diego Unified School District jumped from 3,000 to 5448 in the last year alone. The message resonates with young people like Honoré who has harnessed her surprise and bewilderment that children her own age have no homes to return to into outspoken advocacy and fundraising, rousing the support of her friends and family and being the impetus for getting others involved in finding answers. Her mother, Nancy Hom has been a key influence in teaching her compassion for the less fortunate, both in Meals on Wheels food deliveries and in the Sleepless in San Diego events that they work on together. With the help of Honoré and other humanitarian minded individuals, the SDRM hopes that raising awareness of homelessness at the charity sleepover events will inspire a culture of kindness and mercy toward the homeless that will put an end to their invisible struggles and give them hope for a better future.
by Tamara Christine Van Hooser