LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- The Little Rock area is home to three-quarters of a million people, a small group of whom many people try not to see: the homeless.
THV 11 is partnering with Jericho Way for an event that will bring invaluable help to the homeless community of Central Arkansas.
Sleep Out in the Rock will allow donors the chance to sleep outside for a night to give themselves a better understanding of what it means to be homeless.
“We all have an idea about what a homeless person is, or what a homeless person looks like,” mentioned Shannon Callahan, a volunteer at Jericho Way. “So when I first arrived at Jericho Way, probably the first thing that kind of surprised me was how many people didn’t look homeless. If you saw them on the street you would never know that they were in need of support. They looked just like regular people.”
Jericho Way is a resource center funded by the cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock. It offers showers and laundry facilities, two meals a day, a computer room where people can receive assistance looking for jobs, and more. Some of the services Jericho Way offers come from observing needs that the center’s leaders did not expect, such as providing eye exams and help getting an identification card.
“If you don’t have a birth certificate, if you don’t have at least a state ID, you cannot access Social Security, you can’t access Food Stamps, you can’t access housing, nothing,” Callahan stated. “You’re nobody, you don’t exist.”
Roughly 800 people are homeless in Little Rock on a given night. Jericho Way serves nearly 100 of them each day. Between July and September, it served more than 11,000 meals, provided 2,200 hygiene services, helped 66 people get IDs, and aided 10 people in landing jobs.
Callahan is one of 55 volunteers who gave their time at the center during the last quarter. She started helping out last year, after hearing Sister Elizabeth Greim speak about the opportunity to give back. Callahan helped with the hygiene services at first, but now helps lead a weekly Bible study group and is part of what Sister Elizabeth refers to as its “ministry of presence.”
“Trust is a big thing, but once you earn their trust, and it did take about six weeks or so, and then they see you coming around and they understand that you’re honestly there for them,” Callahan said, “and now, I mean, there are people there who I truly, dearly love, and I would consider them my friends. And I get there and I get hugs, and they’re so happy to see me. And so you can’t leave there feeling bad, because they are genuinely happy to see you.”
A few of Jericho Way’s clients will join the donors during Sleep Out in the Rock, which will be held the night of November 4 at Murray Park. “You’ll get to see, and they’ll tell you, ‘this is how I make it through a night, this is what I have to do, this is how we stay warm,’” Callahan said.
One overnight in during a fundraiser in a park will not give someone a sense of the desperation or fear many homeless people feel when they sleep on the streets at night. But by listening to their stories and seeing the humanity behind the statistics, Callahan hopes participants will get a better sense of what their problems are, and how anyone can help solve them.
“And it’s just being there, and listening, and talking, and finding out what the (homeless people) need,” she stated. “Sometimes it’s just a person to talk to, to tell you about how things are going, or just to have somebody to listen. Really, what it boils down to is for somebody to look at them and to recognize them as a human being, just like everybody else. And that they have value, and that they are just as important as anybody else is.”
The cost to register is a $500 donation. Callahan said Jericho Way hopes to raise $30,000 from the sleep-out. You may sign up here.