A local fundraiser is asking participants to spend a night sleeping in a local park in order to illustrate the plight of homeless San Antonio teens.
The benefit, dubbed Just One Night, is slated for April 14 in Maverick Park and will benefit the Thrive Youth Center and Stand Up For Kids, both of which offer services and support to homeless teens.
The fundraiser is the brainchild of Alex Darke, a member of the San Antonio Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Abbey of the Alamo where he goes by the name of Sister Dottie Bair.
“The premise of the event is simple and very similar to a 5k or bike ride,” Darke explains. “People register at the website as an individual/team/whatever, set a fundraising goal, and then ask their friends and family to support them in this unique event meant to bring attention to both the issue of youth homelessness and the organizations that work to help those kids. The event itself? Sleeping in the rough in a city park for a night, watched over by police and volunteers.”
The Department of Justice estimates that every year, over 1.7 million teens experience homelessness in the US with 40 percent of them identifying as LGBT. Homeless youth are at a higher risk for physical abuse, sexual exploitation, mental health disabilities, substance abuse, and death.
Darke says he created the fundraiser because the issue of homeless teens is a personal one, having been homeless himself as a young gay man. He credits getting off the street, getting his GED and into college to the efforts of “good people” who took a chance on him.
He also recalls people who took advantage of his situation.
“As a teenager on the street, the most common thing I experienced was that anyone who wanted to ‘help’ me expected something in return,” Darke recalls. “Sometimes this was made clear up front, others, not so much. From the kindly older gent who offered me a couch to crash on and then felt he could help himself to my body while I slept, to the overnight security guard with whom I worked a ‘deal’ for a safe space to sleep at night while he worked. Teens learn very quickly that the number one commodity they have, particularly if they have no cash, is themselves.”
“That’s why I started Just One Night,” Darke adds. “Not because spending a night in the park is going to make you realize what it feels like to be a homeless teen on the streets and not because sleeping in a park for a night can fix youth homelessness, but because with the money we raise, those kids out there right now on the streets of San Antonio will have a choice that doesn’t come with the precondition of sex or abuse.”
Just One Night, a benefit for homeless teens in San Antonio, Saturday, April 14, Maverick Park, 1000 Broadway St. Use this link to register for the event, create your campaign, set a fund raising goal and for more information.