Thanksgiving is nigh, and while many of us will host awkward turkey dinners filled with heated political debates between liberal aunts and conservative uncles, others will be in the spirit of giving. And considering that this week is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, remembering and assisting those who have less to be thankful for is a great way to celebrate the holidays.
For the third year, the Costa Mesa-based Share Our Selves (SOS) is going beyond the usual care packages and free Thanksgiving turkeys (not that those aren't great ways to show support for the less fortunate) by offering volunteers the opportunity to weather the night in solidarity with the homeless community of Orange County.
"I think you can talk about it, you can give out food, you can tell people to pick hygiene bags and everything but it just doesn't resonate," says SOS CEO Karen McGlinn, who created SOS's "Sleep Out on Superior" event. "There's a heart and a soul in the people of Orange County and they haven't had the opportunity to express it. SOS brings a place where people want to do good and it allows them to do it. "
The "Sleep Out on Superior" event will feature speakers on homelessness, a documentary screening (past films have included Homeless: The Motel Children of Orange County,) and volunteer activities such as filling bags with Thanksgiving items and assembling hygiene kits for SOS clients. Yet perhaps the most important aspect of the night will be bringing communities together that usually never have the chance to meet. "[The homeless] appreciate having an audience to talk to," says McGlinn, "The hardest thing [for them] is being invisible."
And for the first time, SOS is introducing a Sleep Out on Superior “Family Night” for kids. This event is dedicated to educating schoolchildren on the issues of hunger and homelessness. Children will have the opportunity to pack hygiene kits, decorate placemats and draw pictures on cards to be passed out to the homeless children and families in Orange County, because you can never be too young to learn about compassion.
"To really be a wonderful county, you have to engage all the population and we've done a really good job of isolating the population," McGlinn says, "But young people want to be more engaged—they want to know it, feel it and touch it. "Sleep Out on Superior" is a know-it, feel-it, touch it —your bones even creak in the morning because it's difficult to sleep on concrete."
Share Our Selves Family Night: Today, 5-7pm. Sleep Out: Tomorrow November 18-Saturday, November 19 6:30pm-7am. 1550 Superior Avenue, Costa Mesa. $25, or a donation of $25 worth of hygiene items (socks, soaps, shampoo, razors, toothbrushes, toothpaste, new blankets, etc.) For more info visit shareourselves.org.