Sleep Out: Real Estate Executive Edition
On the coolest night of the fall season so far, 170 real estate executives showed their love and concern for young people facing homelessness in New York City when they joined our Sleep Out: Real Estate Executive Edition and raised more than $440,000 for Covenant House programs and services.
Laying down cardboard and rolling out sleeping bags in an alleyway at the Javits Center, the real estate executives bundled up in coats, knit hats, scarves, and gloves against the early autumn chill. In the middle of the night, the temperature dipped below 40 degrees.But it didn’t matter. What did matter was coming together as an industry to take a stand for children and youth, learn about the factors that drive youth homelessness, and listen to the young people who every day confront the obstacles in their way and work hard to reclaim the future they deserve.
Daniel Rudin is one of the early founders of this Sleep Out edition. Sleep Out, he said, is about “taking time out of a normal routine to recognize others less fortunate, and gain perspective on a life so unfamiliar to us. Until you hear firsthand from the kids how far they’ve come for a fresh start, you can’t appreciate what they’ve been through like you should.”
In the five years since Sleep Out: Real Estate Executive Edition began, these committed industry leaders have raised a total of more than $2.4 million to help Covenant House serve the youth in our care. That support translates into safe beds, nourishing food, education and vocational opportunities, and more.
“Every year, our industry tries to make this Sleep Out bigger and better,” Daniel said. This year, as in previous years, he added, the youth presenters’ testimonies were the most moving part of the evening. “Their stories are what inspire us and, frankly, keep us coming back,” he said.
Tazzy was among the youth who shared her story of struggle and resilience. She had just graduated high school, when long-simmering conflicts with her mother boiled over. Tazzy walked away from the shouting, but when she tried to come back home, her sister told her, “Mom doesn’t want you here.”
All of a sudden, she had nowhere to sleep. “I headed for the subway,” she recalled. “I slept on the train, with one eye open.”
With her cell phone barely charged (the dim, white light showed 1 percent), she phoned a former teacher — in Colorado. “All my teachers knew I was battling. This teacher stayed on the phone with me. He told me to go to Covenant House, looked up the directions, and guided me to the door.”
But she was hesitant. “I almost didn’t go. I thought it would be real bad. A shelter,” she said. “But when I got there, it was actually nice, and people were friendly. They asked me what happened.”
Tazzy enrolled in Covenant House New York’s job readiness program, where she learned how to write a resume and prepare for a job interview. When her first interview didn’t work out, she said, “At Covenant House, they broke it all down for me, how I should act and what kind of information employers want. They told me to practice the ‘power pose’ before my next interview!”
She aced that one, and now has a job working security. Just a couple of weeks before the Sleep Out, Tazzy got her first apartment. Above her head at the Javits Center, a photo of her moving day flashed on a screen for the Sleep Out participants. “Do you see the keys in my hand!” she exclaimed.
Tazzy had one more message for the real estate executives before they bedded down for the night. “These kids you’re about to meet were once in my shoes. They could have not come to Covenant House, but they decided to give themselves a second chance. Covenant House gives kids a second chance, and I’m really grateful for that,” she said.
“Every kid at Covenant House wants to do better, wants to do good for themselves. They’re getting their lives together. Think about how everybody’s struggle is different, how that struggle can make you or break you. These kids are making it.”