Photos: Annual Houston SleepOut Saturday continues to raise awareness regarding homelessness

by Brother Jesse Muhammad

This year National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness week kicks off November 16- 24, 2013. On Nov. 9, we supported the Houston Sleep Out Saturday spearheaded by my college classmate Noah Rattler. The SleepOut is where the general public sleeps outside to experience homelessness for one night (7pm-7am) to raise donations and awareness.

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, each year 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness and on any given night, over 700,000 people are homeless. Studies indicate that children make up 23% of those experiencing homelessness while 40% of homeless men have served in the armed forces. Every night in America an estimated 100,000 veterans are homeless in the streets or housed in relief centers. Today is Veterans Day, but is this how America’s veterans should be living after sacrificing their lives?

In 2007, Noah Rattler left Houston on a 1800 Mile walk from Houston, TX to Los Angeles, CA in order to raise awareness for homelessness in the United States. Along the way, he stopped at homeless service providers and shelters in order to learn more about how each city and town dealt with homelessness in their own way. It was on one of these stops in Wichita Falls, TX, where he was introduced to the “One Night Without a Home” concept. After completing his journey, Noah teamed up with Chris Brown of then Council Member Ronald Green's office to bring the concept to Houston in order to continue the campaign, and called it the Houston SleepOut. Noah's journey was 134 days total!

This year it was held at St. Thomas University. People of all races came out. We heard stories from people who have experienced being homeless as well as people are presently homeless. And of course we enjoyed hearing Noah share details from his journey to L.A.

Yes, we all know that sleeping outside for one night will never give people a true picture of what it feels like to be homeless every day or will it completely eradicate the issue. The reality of it is the fact that we had the luxury of getting back in our vehicles and going back to our families and fine homes the next day.

However, doing SOMETHING is always better than just talking about the problems and doing NOTHING! I applaud Noah for his passion!
What can we do more of? Raising funds to give to those groups that are consistently helping the homeless and hungry is helpful. Providing jobs is helpful. Volunteering at shelters and food banks during and after the holiday season is helpful. Spreading awareness in newspapers, on radio shows, or on your Facebook and Twitter page is helpful. 
Every one can play a role. Will you? I am.

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