St. Augustine, Florida. – More than 300 people in St Johns County are struggling with homelessness.
It can be hard to imagine what it is like to be in their shoes, which is why for the second year in a row, a group of people are camping to raise awareness.
10 people will take on the challenge from Friday evening to Saturday morning at the Alpha-Omega Mircale Home campus on Collins Avenue in St. Augustine.
They will only have a cardboard box, tarp, and flashlight while they sleep in a field.
Alpha-Omega Mircale Home helps Paige Madancy and her children, who know what it’s like to have no home.
The First Coast Sleep Out Challenge only lasts one night, but it was a reality for Madancy.
“It was scary not knowing what was going to happen next,” she said.
Madancy has experienced homelessness many times throughout her childhood life with her mother. She also bounced back in more than three dozen foster homes.
But she says the worst was a little over a year ago.
Madancy and her children, the youngest who were not even a year old at the time, remained homeless for almost two weeks after leaving an abusive relationship.
“It’s scary to think of falling asleep and someone taking what little you have left,” Madancy said. For someone to come see you and say, “Hey, we’re taking your kids.” This is what allowed me to bring it all together. “
Paige and her three children made it to Alpha-Omega Miracle Home.
The organization has been sheltering homeless women, their children and elderly women for over 20 years.
The Sleep Out Challenge is raising funds to expand the program and accommodate more people.
St. Johns County Sheriff Robert Hardwick was quick to register for the event for the second year in a row. He says it’s humiliating.
“It gave you something real,” he said. “It made me think we are complaining about the little things. Whether it’s traffic or your car, forget to refuel today. Then you think about these women and what they have been through in life.
Sheriff Hardwick and Madancy’s paths crossed during last year’s event when Paige detailed her journey into homelessness.
Hardwick offered Madancy a job with the risk management division of the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office shortly after his meeting.
Hardwick says it can be difficult to officially document the number of homeless people in the county. But he says there are nearly 1,000 homeless people under the age of 18 in St. Johns County.
The First Coast Sleep Out Challenge is a one night stand, although it hopes it will help as many people as possible.
“If we can double or triple that, and educate ourselves and not close our eyes,” says Hardwick.
The 10 people taking part in the challenge aim to raise $ 100,000.
This money would be used to build another wing at Alpha-Omega Mircale Home so that it could house an additional 100 women and children.
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