In Annual ‘Sleep-Out,’ Locals Experience Frigid Reality of Homelessness

By BENJAMIN GLASS

YEAGER ANDERSON /JOHN GRAHAM SHELTER FACEBOOK
Residents stand in solidarity with those experiencing homelessness at the candlelight vigil in 2015.

Winter is here. If anyone needs proof, at four in the morning last Thursday, it was three degrees Fahrenheit in Middlebury, which is now the town’s coldest recorded temperature for a Thanksgiving Day. For the hundreds of Addison County residents who make up the county’s homeless population, enduring these mornings and nights must be done without permanent housing. And with the deep dive into winter, conditions can become life-threatening. Last January, former Middlebury employee Suad Teocanin froze to death mere steps away from the shelter of the Charter House in town, where he had been living.  

To raise awareness of the dangers of winter homelessness, The John Graham Shelter, based in Vergennes, will host their 5th annual “Vigil and Sleep-Out” this Saturday, Dec 1. 

It really just put a lot of things in perspective.”

— CHRIS SCHEMBRY

The idea is simple: pitch tents on the Marble Works Green, and for one night, anyone who wishes can sleep outside in bitter conditions to show solidarity for and support people experiencing homelessness.

“The best way I can describe the Sleep-Out is it’s like Relay for Life, but instead of walking at night we’re sleeping outside,” said Chris Schembry, service coordinator at the John Graham Shelter. 

Schembry emphasized that the night-long event coincides with heavy fundraising efforts by the Shelter, which will all directly benefit the homeless they support throughout the year. Donations from individuals and organizations now total over $43,000, leading into this weekend. The current fundraising goal is set at $45,000 and the Shelter is hoping to reach that number by Saturday.

“This is the third year I am working with the shelter for the sleep out, and we typically raise somewhere between $40,000 and $45,000,” said Schembry.

The event itself begins at 4 p.m., with a Candlelight Vigil on the Middlebury Town Green. The Sleep-Out begins later that evening. As an employee of the shelter, Schembry commented on the overnight from personal experience. “I didn’t sleep much,” said Schembry.“It really just put a lot of things in perspective.” For the homeless population, he said, “That’s their normal. That’s what they have to do every day. ”

For more information on how to fundraise and participate in the “Sleep-Out”, visit www.johngrahamshelter.org.

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In Annual ‘Sleep-Out,’ Locals Experience Frigid Reality of Homelessness