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 eight years, hundreds University of Virginia students have participated in the annual Sleepout for the Homeless and cumulatively raised over $27,000 to support various organizations that provide services for the homeless population of the Charlottesville area.

This year there are two joint grant recipients: PACEM and Families in Crisis. PACEM, or People And Congregations Engaged in Ministry, was started in 2003 as a local, interfaith community initiative that houses the homeless during the winter. Over 80 local congregations participate as part of PACEM, serving over 200 adults during every season of operation. Families in Crisis, or FIC, began in 2003 to aid 85 homeless students during a tumultuous period. The goal of FIC is to help homeless families stabilize and transition during tough economic times. In the 2013-2014 school year, FIC served almost 500 students.

Together, PACEM and Families in Crisis hope to use the funds of the Sleepout grant to provide emergency lodging for women and their families.  The recipients plan to offer emergency motel stays when there’s no emergency shelter available and to provide support for the choices women and families need to make in these tough circumstances.

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.