The Sitka Homeless Coalition will host its first ever sleepout next week. “Sleepouts” are a common strategy used across the country to raise funds and awareness around homelessness.
“I think it’s easy to make invisible of the issue of homelessness, that a lot of the folks who are living outside in town are living in places where they can stay drier than the city streets, such as the woods,” says Johnny Elliot, the communications chair of the coalition. “It’s not always a very visible issue, or one that people think about. And it’s often more comfortable to ignore it.”
To make sure the event gets plenty of visibility, they’ve chosen to camp out at Totem Square on August 5.
“And even if the the folks in said tents and tarps are not themselves experiencing homelessness, the sort of imagery will hopefully force folks to acknowledge a little bit that this is something that happens in our community,” Elliot says. “That there are neighbors of ours who don’t have a roof over their head and a door that locks, and we want to change that.”
The group is fundraising too. The money will go toward developing a tiny home community on Jarvis Street. Volunteer Doug Osborne says their first fundraising campaign was very successful. Their goal was $20,000, and they raised over 100,000. But they still have room to grow to fund the project.
“And with a project like this, there’s so many costs and permits, and get a test hole for the site and the ground, and prep work, and engineer stamps,” says Osborne. “There’s just so many things. So we really appreciate the community support so far.”
And the coalition is growing too. This summer they hired a full-time executive director who will be taking the helm this fall.
Register for the sleepout here. Learn more about the Sitka Homeless Coalition here. Read KCAW’s previous reporting on Hítx’i Sáani– the tiny home community planned for Jarvis Street here