People in NJ will sleep in car or tent on Oct. 22. But for many, it’s every night
SUMMIT — A New Jersey-based nonprofit, Family Promise, continues to work to prevent and end family homelessness, both in the Garden State and across the nation.
It will host its 3rd annual “Night Without a Bed” social media challenge and event aimed at raising awareness of family homelessness, on Saturday, Oct. 22.
At Family Promise based in Summit, they refer to the issue of family homelessness as an invisible crisis, said Mitchell Petit-Frere, because more often than not, families who are experiencing homelessness sleep in their cars, at a cheap motel, or crash with other family relatives or friends.
So, during “Night Without a Bed,” participants are asked to spend the night in the back seat of their car, on the floor inside their house, maybe on their deck outside, or in a tent in a park, Petit-Frere said.
“We ask people to sleep in those places, take a picture or a video of their night without a bed, post it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, maybe even Tik Tok and use the hashtag #NightWithoutABed2022,” he said.
They can even post a short description of their experiences sleeping somewhere else besides the comfort of their own bed.
In the run-up to the event, Petit-Frere said there will be an annual virtual meetup called “Family Promise Week.” Family Promise is a national organization with affiliates in over 200 communities across the country, he said.
This is a chance for them on social media to highlight the work that they’ve been doing to raise awareness about homelessness on a national level from the east coast, down south to the west coast, and out to the Hawaiian Islands.
While this is the third year for “Night Without a Bed,” Petit-Frere said this is the second time Family Promise is asking for donations. Last year, Family Promise raised more than $100,000 from "Night Without a Bed."
“We’re asking people on their social media posts about spending the night without a bed, to obviously post their picture or video, but then also challenge three to five friends to either participate in “Night Without a Bed” or donate $10 to Family Promise,” Petit-Frere said.
By the end of 2022, we can expect over 2.5 million children to experience homelessness, which is an incredibly sobering statistic, he said. Also, 1 in 19 kids under the age of 6 will experience homelessness before they enter the first grade, he added.
In New Jersey, nearly 10,000 people experience homelessness on any given night in the state, according to The National Low Income Housing Coalition.
There are only 32 affordable rental homes that exist per 100 extremely low-income renter households in New Jersey, according to the coalition.
In 2021, 2,261 families were served by Family Promise’s 14 New Jersey affiliates.
The goal of “Night Without a Bed” is to help people understand that family homelessness is not what many may think, Petit-Frere said.
When people think of someone experiencing homelessness, many think of a middle-aged man in a big city, sitting on the sidewalk with a cardboard sign.
But he said, in reality, it’s families with children who are sleeping in their cars, sheltering in low-cost hotels, or doubling up with family and friends.
“We want people to understand that this is a crisis that is happening probably in their own communities,” Petit-Frere said.
For more information about “Night Without a Bed” and how to participate, visit here.