Lock Out to raise awareness of homelessnessBy W. WINSTON SKINNER
To solve the problems she faces every day at the local One Roof outreach ministry, Derenda Rowe often has to think outside the box.
In a couple of weeks, she will be sleeping in one.
Instead of simply spending the night inside an air conditioned fellowship hall, youth will be gathering at Resurrection Lutheran Church to spend the night in cardboard boxes. The idea is to gain some idea of what a homeless person experiences on an ongoing basis.
“I am blessed,” Rowe reflected. “I don’t know what it would feel like to be homeless or hungry.”
The Lock Out will be held July 14. Participants and supporters are asked to make donations to One Roof, which provides for a variety of needs for Cowetans.
Area residents may bring donations by the Hands Up, Lock Out at Resurrection Lutheran on July 14 between 4-8 p.m. The church is located on Highway 34 East at its intersection with Lora Smith Road.
Items needed include food, personal hygiene items, gift cards, sleeping bags, tents and clothes.
People also may send checks to One Roof, P.O. Box 916, Newnan, GA 30264. The memo line should read “Coweta Homeless.”
Connie Jones, youth director at Resurrection, is working with people from other churches to get as many youth to the Lock Out at possible. The deadline for registering for the event technically is today, but Jones said she would continue to add participants for several days – as long as space permits.
Anyone interested should contact Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 678-517-0526.
The idea for the Lock Out came from members of the Resurrection congregation, responding to a request from Jones for project suggestions.
The Lock Outs with which Jones was familiar simply involved having youth sleep outside, hear about homelessness, eat soup and then – in the morning – “turn on our cell phones, go eat breakfast, go home, take a shower and crawl in our safe clean beds,” Jones said.
“I have to be honest,” she reflected. “I couldn’t see the benefit in that.”
With a bit of tweaking, however, the Lock Out concept gained real relevance. “My thought that was alone we could do very little, but as a strong Christian community, we could do so much if we all gave a little,” Jones said.
She talked to Rowe, and was impressed with the One Roof leader’s insight into local needs – and her willingness to join teens for the Lock Out. “She’s an amazing lady and full of fun,” Jones said.
When she spends the night in a cardboard box, Rowe said, “I will be thinking about the people we have helped in the last four-and-a-half years.”
She said she will be “wondering where some are” and taking some comfort in “knowing for many we have made a difference in their lives.”
There is no typical homeless person in Coweta County. “There have been elderly, newborn babies, teenagers, large families, people who were ill or disabled and – worst of all – people who were dying,” Rowe said.
“We have helped people who have slept in cars or abandoned buildings, in sheds or in the woods. We have given them food and clothing, put them in motel rooms and taken them places they need to go in order to have resources to get their lives back on track,” Rowe said.
One Roof also has worked with other ministries and “agencies all over town” in an effort to give people whose lives have spiraled into homelessness some direction – as well as helping them “find those things which are needed by someone who basically has nothing,” Rowe said.
One Roof has assisted “hundreds of people who were homeless in Coweta County,” she stated. Rowe said she is looking forward to connecting with young Cowetans and sharing with them the breadth and urgency of the problem of homelessness.
“I will be joining youth from all over Coweta and telling them some of the stories I have heard from children who are about their age, a woman who was dropped off in our parking lot, men who thought they might freeze to death, a young woman who slept in her car for several months while working for the school system,” she said.
“Then I will tell them how donations from our community will keep people in their homes, will give them basic necessities, will give them hope for a future where they can become self-sufficient,” Rowe said.
The overall purpose of the Lock Out is “to raise awareness of the problem of homelessness in our community,” Rowe said.
Jones said the Hands-up Lock Out will be held at Resurrection Lutheran Church from 4 p.m. July 14 until 10 a.m. July 15. “We have some fun stuff planned for the kids,” she said.
Youth ages 12 to 18 will be “sleeping outside at the church in cardboard boxes to encourage their friends, family, congregation members and local community to stop by and donate non-perishable food items, personal hygiene items and their loose change,” Jones said. She said all the donations will go to One Roof.
Before actually getting ready for sleep, participants will go into the church and lock the door for safety.
While the event is planned to be a fun one for participants, Jones said the planned activities are “designed to give them a slight glimpse in the lives of those who have to depend on others for food and shelter.”
Youth will be wearing a bathing suit under simple clothes – shirt, shorts or pants, and shoes – and bringing a cardboard box for their sleeping quarters. Youth who play a musical instrument may bring one, but no electronic devices are allowed.
There is no charge for participants. “They are only required to invite their friends, family and immediate community members to come and give donations,” Jones said. Resurrection is asking that each participating church provide one adult chaperone.
For their evening meal, youth will be bringing food that can be contained in a sealable plastic bag, with no beverage. “Water will be available,” Jones said.
At Resurrection Lutheran, the youth group’s motto is “For I am my brother’s keeper.” Jones said the Lock Out is “about strength in community, responsibility in community – and the simple human act of caring for one another.”
Jones said she sees the event as “our opportunity to serve the hidden members of our community.”