On a typical Friday night in November you might expect teenagers to be at a high school football game, playing video games, or passing time with friends, but for YVC youth in Kansas City, students prepare to spend an entire night out in the cold. YVCKC’s annual One Homeless Night is an amazing way to spread both awareness about homelessness and develop an understanding among youth about the struggles of living without a home. When I first participated in One Homeless Night, I remember sleeping in a cramped cardboard box, enduring frigid temperatures, and going without any food in my stomach, giving me a brief glimpse of the difficulties of their lives are on a daily basis. In the morning, I had the chance to interact with some of the homeless in my community and was surprised to discover the wide range of social and economic reasons that led them to wind up in transitional homelessness. While this may not seem appealing to the vast majority of teenagers, I continued to participate in this eye-opening experience for the next four years. One Homeless Night is organized by our local Youth Advisory Board, which plans various icebreakers, service learning opportunities, and invites credible speakers to the event. Additionally, an impactful movie is usually played while we participate in team building exercises and set up our refrigerator boxes. We then brace the cold, spend the entire night outside, and in the morning serve breakfast to those in need. In a city where over 2000 youth are homeless every day, this service event is essential in order to spark future change in our society. I have seen firsthand the importance of this event, as it magnifies the empathetic nature of the youth who participate and fosters their dedication to a lifelong commitment to service. While I am 18 and won’t be able to participate in another one of YVC’s One Homeless Night, I am truly grateful for what the event has shown me and the impact that it has had on our community.
Patton Meacham is an active youth volunteer with YVC of Greater Kansas and currently serves on YVC’s International Youth Advisory Board. He attends Blue Valley North High School, where he is involved in DECA, Spanish Club, and varsity lacrosse. Additionally, he is dedicated to serving and improving his community.