Virtual Sleep Out Brings Awareness Of Homelessness In Lawrence County

(BEDFORD) – The virtual sleepout fundraiser for the Shalom Center and Friend’s Place was held Friday night. Just prior to Friday evening, $10,000 was raised and the overall goal was to raise $50,000.

This fundraiser is one of the most important for Friends Place as $50,000 is a quarter of the budget for the group. Friends Place provided over 14,000 nights of shelter for 227 people last year.

Ginny Fullen and Jennifer Richason slept under the stars on the Lawrence County Courthouse square in Bedford to bring awareness to the homeless situation in Lawrence County.

Richason is the director of Bedford’s Men’s Warming Center. Fullen has lived in Lawrence County for more than 43 years and is a member of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church. She volunteers at the Men’s Warming Center.

(Left to right) Ginny Fullen and Jennifer George Richason bringing awareness to homelessness.

The two spent the night near the Lady Liberty statue. Guardian angels from the church joined them throughout the night to lift up prayers for the homeless.

Those guarding angels included Kathy Sleva, Deacon David Reising, Tim Thompson, John Keesler, Clarence Brown, Janice Nickeo Pendergrass, Yolanda Roe, and Jenifer George Richason.

“I have prayed about this and was prompted by the Holy Spirit to do this. I wanted to sleep out in a public place to bring awareness to homelessness,” Fullen added. 

Homeless individuals throughout the country use public places to find safety and catch a few hours of sleep.

The virtual sleepover is a fundraiser for the Shalom Community Center in partnership with First United Methodist Church in Bloomington and for the Men’s Warming Shelter in Bedford.

“This is to promote awareness of the plight of homelessness, teach your children in the way of the Lord,” Fullen added.

On Friday night, Father Adam Ahern blessed the women’s efforts and prayed for those who are facing challenging times in Lawrence County. He also prayed for protection for those involved in Friday evenings sleepout.

A year round shelter for men is not available at this time. The homeless population has been seen living in their vehicles as well as in tents in undisclosed locations throughout Lawrence County.

Jennifer Richason and Ginny Fullen sat in cooler location Friday night, in front of Nanna’s Boutique on Bedford’s Courthouse Square and talk about homeless issues in Lawrence County.

Currently, the Men’s Warming Shelter is using a building owned by the City of Bedford. The organization is working towards providing a more permanent location, as well as providing year-round services.

The Men’s shelter in Bedford is only open during the winter months, and only during the night to provide Men a place to stay.

Homeless men face stereotypes and stigmas associated with their plight that sometimes is of their own doing, and other times is just how things happened when life threw them unexpected problems.

The Men’s Warming Shelter opened after a homeless man died due to the bitter cold temperatures one winter in Bedford.

The Men’s Warming Shelter is trying to provide men services they need to improve their outcomes later in life. In the short time of the shelter being opened, there have been several success stories of getting men jobs and securing permanent living situations.

The Unity for Community campaign is currently underway at the Men’s Warming Shelter in Bedford.

Some men use the facility as an overnight stay, others use the facility a little bit longer, especially in the bitterly cold nights of winter. In the summertime there is no place for the men to go and get cooled down from the summer heat.

Jerimiah Turner is one of the success stories of the Bedford Men’s Warming Center. Turner now has a job, apartment, and is working on getting his son back after hitting rock bottom.

There are many more individuals who have been able to find job placements and assistance in locating birth records, drivers licenses and social security cards to enter the local workforce.

Many local businesses have been willing to give these men a chance in life, even with mediocre job history and legal issues.

The goal of the Men’s Warming Shelter is not to leave anyone in the condition of where they are but to get them in a better situation than they were in before. The Men’s Warming Shelter is not a permanent stop, only a stepping stone to something better.

Anyone can donate to the Men’s Warming Shelter by dropping off donations all year round by going to the Bedford Federal Savings Bank drive-thru, and tell them the money is for the Bedford’s Warming Shelter.