Church members sleep out for homelessness

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A number of church members came to offer encouragement and food to those sleeping rough.

Twenty Glenvale Seventh-day Adventist church (Qld) members braved the cold and spent a night on the streets as part of the annual Homeless for a Night Sleep Out on August 5.

The Toowoomba event, run by not-for-profit organisation Base Services, was aimed at raising money for the Basement Soup Kitchen as part of National Homelessness Week. The ministry provides food, warm clothes, swags and other amenities to those in need, in addition to links to accommodation and health services.

With more than 400 people experiencing homelessness every night in the area, Glenvale church pastor Casey Wolverton saw the need for action. Indeed he went beyond “Homeless for a Night” and spent the entire week sleeping rough as did the main organiser of the event.

“We have one of the larger churches here in Toowoomba . . . so I think we have a responsibility to lean into some of these social challenges and see what we can do to provide a solution,” he said. “How could we not participate?”

Pastor Wolverton (left) spends his second night on the streets.

More than $A7600 was raised by the church group, with significant amounts being achieved by the younger participants. The youngest, a 10-year-old, raised nearly $400 for the cause.

“[The young people] saw it as an opportunity to put their faith into action,” said Glenvale associate pastor Pastor Jacob Ugljesa, a second-time participant in the sleepout.

“Churches, if they’re not careful, can become very inward focused . . . [and this event] calls us to go out and interact with people who are struggling.”

The entire project raised more than $100,000 towards the soup kitchen, with Pastor Wolverton wanting to increase the church’s involvement to 50 participants next year, with at least 20 of those being under the age of 20.

“There’s nothing more transformational than a young person going and experiencing homelessness,” he said. “We’re really going to ramp up the effort to get more young people involved.

“I’m really looking forward to next year!”

Glenvale and Toowoomba Seventh-day Adventist church members also volunteer monthly at the Basement Soup Kitchen.