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Project focuses on ‘plight of homeless’
Youth from St. Brendan to live outside for a day
Homeless 1
Last year, the St. Brendan’s homeless event was at the Kroger on Windward Parkway in Alpharetta. More than 100 young people spent 24 hours in the parking lot and plan to do it again this year. - photo by Submitted
The youth of the St. Brendan Catholic Community of Cumming have the chance every year to experience how the homeless live.

More than 100 teenagers will participate in the church’s seventh annual project, which encourages them to spend 24 hours contemplating “the plight of the homeless.”

According to Kat Doyle, parish life director, it is “a great learning experience, and they learn it’s not that easy to live on the streets, even for one day and one night.”

The program’s purpose is twofold, Doyle said. It raises awareness of a real issue and raises money for those most affected by it.

Participants camp out overnight at the Kroger on Windward Parkway. Their goal is to collect money, blankets and food for people who are, in reality, living on the streets.

The project, which begins at 7 a.m. Feb. 28, is well-staged. Police cruisers even stop by to hassle the young people during the night because they’re in on the secret.

“They’ll come through while the kids are sleeping and hit the sirens to wake them up,” Doyle said.

She said participants are restricted to a certain area of the parking lot, but are allowed to venture over to the street to panhandle.

“That’s another experience for them, because they’ll come back and people will yell mean things at them,” Doyle said. “But every year somebody hands one of our kids a $100 bill. It happens every year.”

Money from the fundraiser goes to The Place of Forsyth County and North Fulton Community Charities. The group also gives its overnight sleeping bags and blankets to the Atlanta Union Mission.

This year, the church has expanded the beneficiaries to include the Seven Bridges Ministry, which works with homeless living under bridges in the Atlanta area.
Participants raised more than $2,000 last year and hope to contribute more this year, Doyle said.

“Their goal is to spend the day trying to catch the attention of the people that shop or go through the parking lot, to talk them into making some donations, whether it’s money or cans or blankets,” she said.

The teens get points for every item they coax from people in the parking lot. They then exchange their vouchers for two meals that will be served during the 24-hour span: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch and a soup and bread dinner.

“The goal is to put these young people in the shoes of a homeless person for a day,” Doyle said.

“We’re also trying to keep the community aware that even in north Fulton and Forsyth County, there is homelessness,” Doyle said. “It’s important to understand not only that it’s there, but that we can all do something to make a difference. That’s why we do this.”