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Oakland 'sleep out' boosts awareness, raises funds for homeless youth

Oakland 'sleep out' boosts awareness, raises funds for homeless youth
Oakland 'sleep out' boosts awareness, raises funds for homeless youth 03:51

OAKLAND -- On a chill Friday night in Oakland, community members participated in a "sleep out" to call attention to the plight of homeless youth.

Ellen August volunteered her time to get a feel of what it's like to live on the streets.

"I definitely think I will have more empathy for seeing people that are unhoused and especially the youth. Just the extra struggles they go through being minors and having to deal with not having a home," August said.

Each participant had the goal of raising $1,000 to help Covenant House, an organization that helps homeless youth pay for food, shelter and medical services.

"The vast majority of all our youth are former foster youth so over 50 percent of our youth are former foster youth. Of that, most of them were at their last placement for less than 6 months. and then a quarter of our youth have been sex-trafficked. Especially for that 13- to 17-year-old group, that's what led them to this experience," Vera Hannush, with the Covenant House, explained.

Hannush will also be taking part in the sleep out. She said that 40 percent of the youth they serve are LGBT and the majority are African American. Many have nothing but a sleeping bag. Ellen August says part of this event included learning about how most belongings the youth have are often stolen or they are forced to leave things behind.

"... Losing all your belongings and you have nothing and it was really heart-wrenching because I was thinking I can go out and volunteer and do this but I have all these creature comforts some people don't have at all," August said.

August is a mother of two and she knows that spending one cold night on the streets doesn't compare to what homeless youth have to go through every day. The goal is to bring awareness to the issue and hopefully inspire others to volunteer.

"My children -- I hope they get appreciation for what they have and encourage them to get out and want to do more for the homeless youth in the Bay Area," August said.

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