Leaders raise tents, and awareness, to shine spotlight on homelessness
South Coast CEOs traded boardrooms for cardboard boxes on Friday and slept outside for “One Homeless Night…Is Too Many” to raise awareness for a growing problem.
Among them was Marion resident and First Citizens’ Federal Credit Union President and CEO Peter Muise.
“This will start a discussion that needs to take place around homeless needs and homeless services,” Muise said. “We’re not going to get it all done tonight, but this will start the conversation.”
On Friday, Muise and approximately 40 other business and civic leaders, along with homeless service providers, gathered on the playing field at Normandin Middle School.
For 12 hours the group stayed outside, listening to those who were able to get off the street with the help of groups such as Catholic Social Services. They eventually bedded down for the night in tents and boxes.
Muise, who was camping out for the first time since his adult children were young, said the event was nowhere near the conditions that the city’s homeless face day to day.
“This isn’t an attempt to see what it’s like to live in a tent city,” Muise said. “But having all of these different people together will open up a dialog.”
In addition to raising awareness, the event kicked off a $100,000 fundraising effort called Rise Up for Homes.
First Citizens’ Federal Credit Union Marketing Director Leslie Poulin is leading that project alongside The Homeless Service Providers Network. The money will be used to build an overflow shelter in New Bedford.
“This past winter, there were over sixty people looking to find beds at night,” Muise said. “The shelter was at capacity.”
Muise said he got involved in the homeless cause soon after the 2008 financial crisis.
At the request of one of the city’s homeless service providers he agreed to a meeting.
Though he wasn’t sure at first how he could serve, Muise found his ability to bring people together was a tremendous asset.
On Friday, those gathered were provided food by Mobile Loaves and Fishes. The Austin-based organization delivers meals and clothing to the homeless in five cities across the U.S.
Later, a discussion was held that featured testimonies from those who had found homes off the street.
“It’s about hearing about what people think homelessness is and listening to those who have lived it,” Muise said. “There’s no lecturing or proselytizing.”
For more information or to donate money to Rise Up for Homes, visit www.riseupforhomes.com. To donate via cell phone, text RISEUP to 50155.