Youth group experiences homeless night

Prospect Congregational Church Youth Leader Kayla Reilly, left, and youth group member Brianna Hudson collect money to help the homeless at the intersection of routes 68 and 69 in Prospect Jan. 30 during the group’s annual Homeless Awareness Sleepout. –LUKE MARSHALL

Prospect Congregational Church Youth Leader Kayla Reilly, left, and youth group member Brianna Hudson collect money to help the homeless at the intersection of routes 68 and 69 in Prospect Jan. 30 during the group’s annual Homeless Awareness Sleepout. –LUKE MARSHALL

PROSPECT — As temperatures dipped below freezing Saturday night, members of the Prospect Congregational Church’s Youth Group got a small taste of what life is like being homeless.

The group held its 14th annual Homeless Awareness Sleepout this past weekend. From 10 a.m. Saturday until 10 a.m. on Sunday, youth fellowship members lived on the small traffic island on Center Street in front of Town Hall.

The sleepout is an effort to promote homeless awareness, Senior High Youth Fellowship Leader Sue Hudson explained. Along with sleeping out, the group collects donations over the 24 hours to give to the Greater Waterbury Interfaith Mission, she said.

The group collected $2,141 in cash along with bags of clothes to donate to the mission.

The group’s campsite was covered in snow and a fire burned in a 55-gallon barrel to keep them warm. The sleeping accommodations included blankets piled on an old trailer with only a black tarp to protect members of the group from the elements.

Collin Lacovelli, 17, said the sleepout provides the group with an appreciation for what the homeless population has to endure on a regular basis.

“Homeless people have to sleep out in this, so we should for at least a day,” Lacovelli said.

This year marked Lacovelli’s third year sleeping out with the group.

“We do it to raise awareness for the homeless because everybody needs to know about this. This is a big cause we can raise money for to help out,” Lacovelli said.

Brianna Hudson, 16, stood on Route 68 holding a small cardboard sign, hoping people would donate money. This was the fourth year Hudson has participated in the event.

When asked why she takes part in the sleepout, Hudson said so she can have a better understanding of what the homeless population goes through.

Prospect Congregational Church Youth Group members Collin Lacovelli, left, and Nicholas Hudson collect money to help the homeless at the intersection of Route 68 and Route 69 in Prospect Jan. 30 during the group’s 14th annual Homeless Awareness Sleepout. –LUKE MARSHALL

Prospect Congregational Church Youth Group members Collin Lacovelli, left, and Nicholas Hudson collect money to help the homeless at the intersection of Route 68 and Route 69 in Prospect Jan. 30 during the group’s 14th annual Homeless Awareness Sleepout. –LUKE MARSHALL

“I wanted to see how they live life every day,” Hudson said.

Youth Leader Kayla Reilly, 18, who was participating for her fifth year, said that although Prospect doesn’t seem to have a homeless population, there are large problems in the surrounding cities.

“The interesting thing about Prospect is we are not really known for having a homeless population here, but we are surrounded by Waterbury and New Haven. There are a lot of poor homes in that area that we are right next to that we don’t just ever get to see or experience,” Reilly said.

All agreed the most difficult part of the sleepout is dealing with the bitter cold nights.

“The worst part about it is trying to sleep at night. It’s a really tough time,” Lacovelli said. “We’ve got a fire going and a lot of clothes. A lot of layers.”