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Commentary: Atlanta leaders ‘Sleep Out’ for the homeless

Original Story on WABE by Maria Saporta

Gov. Deal Sandra Allison Ashe

Covenant House’s Allison Ashe greets Gov. Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal (Photo by Maria Saporta)

The Covenant House, a refuge for homeless youth, holds a unique fundraiser every year.

It invites community leaders to sleep outdoors so they can get a taste of what it’s like to be homeless. The fifth annual “Sleep Out” happened Nov. 17, when a hundred Atlanta leaders slept outdoors on the campus in Northwest Atlanta.

For one night, it was hard to tell the difference between the homeless and the CEO.

Executives dressed down wanted to be as comfortable as they could for a night sleeping outdoors in the elements.

Governor Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal made an appearance early in the evening to show encouragement and support.

You might recognize some of the names of those who braved the night – Paul Garcia, the retired CEO of Global Payments; Bill Rogers, the CEO of SunTrust Banks Inc.; public relations executive Bob Hope; Jerome Russell of H.J. Russell & Co.; Clark Dean of Transwestern; civic leader Valerie Hartman; Coca-Cola North America President Sandy Douglas; film-maker David Lewis and his wife, Danica Kombol; and Gary Price, of the PwC accounting firm, flew in from New York to participate.

Delta Air Lines – a national sponsor of the Covenant House Sleep Outs – even recruited its employees in Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Detroit and Toronto.

Atlanta sponsors donated about $425,000 to Covenant House, as leaders stepped into the shoes of the homeless for a night.

Those funds will help Covenant House reach homeless youth in Atlanta, which total more than 3,000, according to Executive Director Allison Ashe.

Leaders and residents huddled together, candles were lit to represent young people still living on the streets.  And a list of names of the homeless, lost and fallen was read aloud.

And that’s when reality set in. We reflected on comforts we have, while working toward a better understanding those who have-not.

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