Community is gearing up for United We Sleep event

NASHUA – In efforts to shed light on the many layers of homelessness, The United Way of Greater Nashua will be hosting its fourth annual “United We Sleep” event next week.

Those who attend will be able to learn about the major causes of homelessness within the community and learn about pathways to break the cycle of poverty.

The event will be held on the front lawn of Nashua Community College on Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m.

The primary motive of the event is to educate, United Way of Greater Nashua President Mike Apfelberg said.

“Our goal is getting people to think about the effects of homelessness and to make homelessness something that’s relatable, that people understand and that isn’t just an academic theory,” Apfelberg said. “It’s about coming together and learning.”

To educate participants, the United Way has lined up experts from the community who will host discussions centering around three topics: adverse childhood experiences, housing models in the community and food insecurity.

Experts hosting the discussions come from different agencies in the community including Greater Nashua Mental Health Center, Bridges, The Division of Public Health and Community Services, NeighborWorks, Family Promise, Habitat for Humanity, Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter and End 68 Hours of Hunger.

“Most of the people who participate in event have never really learned much about homelessness, so for them it’s eye opening,” Apfelberg said.

The idea to host a sleep out event came after Apfelberg saw the impact attending a sleep out could have.

Many years ago, Apfelberg’s family participated in a sleep out event in Milford. Apfelberg’s daughter was in sixth grade at the time.

When he went to work at the United Way of Greater Nashua, he was brainstorming ideas and his daughter suggested having something similar to the sleep out they had participated in.

“It made a big impression on her,” Apfelberg said. “She said when she woke up the morning after the event, she thought about what it would mean to fall asleep in bad conditions, not being able to take a shower and being smelly in class. For her, it was a super horrifying idea.”

He added, “For young people who are experiencing homelessness that could be one of the many things that affects them, the social stigma.”

To better understand the struggles faced by those in the community, participants will come to the event equipped with just a sleeping bag, a sweater or jacket and a toothbrush, but no toothpaste.

Participants will receive a cardboard box to sleep in for the night and some food from the “United We Sleep” Cantina.

To participate in the event, an individual has a set goal of $500 to raise. For teams, that set goal is $2,000. All funds that are raised will go to the Greater Nashua safety net of services, which includes transitional housing programs, access to dental care and access to food support for low income and homebound elderly.

According to Apfelberg, over 60 people have already signed up. Come next week, he expects between 80-100 people to attend the evening programming, though not all will stay the full night.

The United Way has a fundraising goal of $70,000.

United Way will also be hosting a sock drive during the event.

To register, visit https://app.mobilecause.com/vf/sleepout2019 or text sleepout2019 to 71777.

Grace Pecci may be reached at 603-594-1243 or gpecci@nashuatelegraph.com.