12-hour sleep-out event inspires the next generation of leaders

An estimated 4,265 Hillsborough County students are experiencing homelessness - living in cars, hotels or motels, shelters, or sharing homes with others. While there are programs in place to help address these heartbreaking scenarios, there is much more work to be done. This need prompted Hillsborough County Children's Services to host the County's first-ever overnight sleep-out to bring awareness to this important issue.

Leaders from around Hillsborough County and students from the Hillsborough County Youth Leadership Council, University of South Florida, and a local high school came together on Nov. 17 to listen to first-hand accounts of formerly unhoused youth, learn about the reasons why people become homeless, and to get inspired to help the cause. Metropolitan Ministries led activities that put the students in scenarios that simulated homelessness or being on the verge of losing their home, including the fear, helplessness, and unfairness that comes with it. The goal of these exercises is for the students to recognize and understand how vulnerable community members are to becoming homeless and what they can do to help.

Local high school students stayed overnight at the event.

Local high school students and staff participating in Metropolitan Ministries-led activities.
Making homelessness "rare, brief, and non-recurring" was one of Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative's (THHI) Antonio Byrd's main speaking points for the evening. THHI works closely with Hillsborough County to provide resources to individuals and families experiencing homelessness and leads them to self-sufficiency. The Hillsborough County Homeless Point-in-Time Count is held annually to get a "snapshot" of the homeless population in our community during a single, 24-hour period. The 2023 count recorded 2,040 homeless individuals, an increase of 25% from 2022, including 179 families and 65 unaccompanied youth.

Remarks were made by area organizations and leaders, including Hillsborough County staff

The event also brought in 1,497 pairs of socks, 172 pairs of underwear, and other items that were donated to Metropolitan Ministries clients.
Learn more about Hillsborough County Homeless & Community Services and how to volunteer with THHI. 

Photo Information: Setting up sleeping bags for the night.