The Sleepout for the Homeless is a 2 night sleep-out fundraiser to raise money to fight homelessness in Charlottesville. Participants sleep outside in tents and a temporary dwelling known as a Sukkah in the Amphitheater for 2 nights and receive sponsorships from their friends and families, 100% of which will go directly to a local homelessness organization.Over the past Nineyears, hundreds University of Virginia students have participated in the annual Sleepout for the Homeless and cumulatively raised over $28,000 to support various organizations that provide services for the homeless population of the Charlottesville area.

This year our grant Recipient is The Haven. The Haven works to end homeless by both operating a day shelter, and running a housing program. The Day Shelter gives members of the homeless community a place to start. Opening in 2010, the shelter allows guests to escape the elements, bathe and do laundry, and have personal space. It also acts as a focal point for providing guests with services that will help them move from homelessness to stable housing. The Haven has hundreds of volunteers, 30% of whom are UVA students.

This year’s donations from the 10th Annual Sleepout will go towards helping maintain the day shelter and operate the housing program. The Haven notes that “point-in-time data shows that homelessness in Charlottesville is on the decline, and with support from the community, we expect that trend will continue”. JSJC and the Sleepout for the Homeless Initiative believe that educating students, and holding awareness events such as Sleepout plays an important part in supporting organizations such as The Haven.

The Sleepout will occur near the Jewish festival of Sukkot, which commemorates the 40 years the Israelites spent traveling through the desert after the exodus from Egypt. During Sukkot, it is customary for Jews to eat, sleep, and entertain guests in a Sukkah, a temporary structure reminiscent of the huts in which the wandering Israelites dwelt. Given the themes of the holiday and its coincidence with the first chills of autumn, the Jewish community at the University of Virginia has taken Sukkot as an opportunity to turn our thoughts to those in our community for whom sleeping outside is not a cause for celebration. Today, the Sleepout for the Homeless is one of the hallmark service events in the University community, given that it’s widely known by its members and centrally located on the University Grounds.

Throughout the Sleepout, UVa students of all religions will be sleeping outside on UVa Grounds as part of an effort to spread awareness about homelessness and opportunities to help the homeless in our community. Sleepout participants will secure sponsorships from their friends, families, and local businesses to sleep out. It is this sponsorship money that funds the grant. The three day event will also include speakers, discussions, and awareness campaigns highlighting the causes and effects of homelessness, as well as emphasizing the need for students to take action.