The “One Night Without a Home” Sleep Out is a common part of many Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Weeks. This event is an opportunity for participants to spend a night outside to discuss, think, and learn about homelessness. Although one night outside can in no way simulate homelessness, this awareness-raising activity can promote advocacy, awareness, and education.

The Format:

  • This event usually lasts for about 12 hours, often from 7 p.m. until the morning.
  • Develop your mission statement
    • Address the questions of: Who; What; Where; When; and Why
  • Choose an appropriate site, someplace central to community activities.
  • Make sure you receive permission right away from your city or county officials and community/school administrators concerning location, security, and other logistics.
    • If you are doing your event in a public space please make sure to call your local parks and recreation department to finalize any permits that may be required.
  • Invite currently or formerly homeless people, community leaders, residents, and community spokespeople to speak during the event.
  • Ask local businesses for event donations, such as food, drinks, supplies, or money.
  • Ask other groups to co-sponsor the event such as Food Not Bombs, which can serve food to homeless guests
  • Prepare group discussion topics that will promote interaction among all participants.
  • Include information that allows participants to act upon what they’ve learned (directions to local groups where they can perform community service, letter writing, advocacy, etc.).
  • In the morning, allow time for participants to share their thoughts and concerns.

Sample Agenda:

  • 6:00 p.m.: Gather participants. Provide transportation for homeless/formerly homeless guests
  • 7:00 p.m.: Serve coffee and/or a meal
  • 8:00 p.m.: Have speakers present
  • 9:00 p.m.: Hold discussion groups
  • 11:00 p.m.: Late night food/music
  • 7:00 a.m.: Breakfast/closing remarks/wrap up

Additional Suggestions:

  • Be mindful of what to bring. Do not bring laptops, tablets, or alcoholic beverages.
  • Don’t let people have pizza or other food delivered.
  • Consider bringing supplies that participants can donate to people experiencing homelessness.
  • Distribute fact sheets and information about hunger and homelessness, plus a schedule of other events that are taking place throughout the week.
  • Invite the media. Assign a spokesperson in charge of representing the event to reporters.
  • Post a list of rules on the night of the event.
  • Designate a time during the evening to discuss hunger and homelessness in your community.

Wrap Up:

  • Appoint a committee to draft a group resolution based on the discussion that night.
  • Establish a common ground for participants who would like to take future action.
  • Collect names, phone numbers, and email addresses of participants for future reference and to provide them with information about local service sites.