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Senators Sleep Out on Statehouse Steps for Youth Homeless Awareness

The Alternative Press Staff

Friday, April 11, 2014 • 4:25pm

TRENTON – In the spirit of true bipartisanship, five members of the Senate will sleep out on the steps of the New Jersey Statehouse to bring attention and awareness to the problem of youth and teen homelessness. Senators Joseph F. Vitale, Jennifer Beck, M. Teresa Ruiz, Nellie Pou and Peter J. Barnes III will participate in Covenant House’s first New Jersey Legislator Sleep Out from 7 p.m. tonight to 7a.m. Saturday morning. Each legislator will receive a sleeping bag and cardboard box for the sleep out.

“Being homeless, especially for young people, means that you are experiencing hunger, extreme weather conditions and unsafe surroundings nearly every time the sun goes down,” said Senator Barnes (D-Middlesex). “By giving up a night of our lives to sleeping on the streets, my fellow Legislators and I will show real compassion for these kids. Covenant House is providing life-changing services to these kids and we need to give them the support necessary to continue their work.”

“Youth homelessness it not something that you only see in third-world countries, but occurs here in New Jersey with thousands of kids not having a place to call home,” said Senator Vitale, (D-Middlesex) a co-chair of the event and long-time Covenant House volunteer. “I have seen first-hand the great work that Covenant House does to ensure that no child feels unloved or unwanted and that no New Jersey kid is left on the streets, hungry and abandoned. Sleeping outside is the least that we can do to bring awareness to this issue.”

“This sleep-out is an opportunity to raise awareness of the very real problem of youth homelessness in New Jersey. For one night, we will sleep as many children and families do every night. We are doing this in solidarity as a way to bring attention to the issue but also in support of the effort to protect young people and to break the cycle of homelessness. I want to thank Covenant House for the great work it is doing to change the life paths of children throughout New Jersey who have nowhere else to turn,” said Senator Ruiz, (D-Essex) an event co-chair.

“Those of us sleeping outside tonight are lucky, " said Beck (R-Monmouth) "We only have to do it for one night and it's during the spring. Hundreds of youths sleep outside every night through the most brutal of seasons and during the harshest of weather. We hope that our short night of hardship will help raise some much needed funds so the Covenant House can bring more of these young people in from the cold and show them that that they still can have bright futures. I'll be spending one night outside so, in the future, New Jersey's youth won't have to."

“This sleep-out is an opportunity to raise awareness of the very real problem of youth homelessness in New Jersey. For one night, we will sleep as many children and families do every night. We are doing this in solidarity as a way to bring attention to the issue but also in support of the effort to protect young people and to break the cycle of homelessness. I want to thank Covenant House for the great work it is doing to change the life paths of children throughout New Jersey who have nowhere else to turn,” said Senator Ruiz, (D-Essex) an event co-chair.

“Every child should have the experience of being cared for and loved, but unfortunately that is not an experience that all New Jersey young people receive,” said Senator Pou (D-Passaic and Bergen). “By sleeping outside, with only a sleeping bag and a cardboard box, we are gaining a little bit of insight into what it is like for these young people. Hopefully, we will be able to take this insight and turn it into action to save the lives of New Jersey’s homeless youth.”

Covenant House is the largest privately-funded agency in the Americas providing food, shelter, immediate crisis care, and essential services to homeless youth in 21 cities throughout the United States, Canada and Latin America. Last year, they touched over 50,000 young people’s lives, with over 2,000 in New Jersey. Legislators will be encouraged to tweet during the Sleep Out using the hashtag #LegislativeSleepOut.

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