Northampton Press

Saturday, January 18, 2020
PRESS PHOTOS BY MARK RECCEK Madison Musselman of Northampton, right, sitting, and Holley Piskula of Breinigsville register Morgan Janotka, left, and her sister Madison of Whitehall at the sleep out for homeless event held Sept. 20 at St. John's United Church of Christ, Fullerton. Nearly 100 teens from across the Northeast region participated in the event. The teens spent the evening sleeping out in cardboard boxes in a field next to the church. PRESS PHOTOS BY MARK RECCEK Madison Musselman of Northampton, right, sitting, and Holley Piskula of Breinigsville register Morgan Janotka, left, and her sister Madison of Whitehall at the sleep out for homeless event held Sept. 20 at St. John's United Church of Christ, Fullerton. Nearly 100 teens from across the Northeast region participated in the event. The teens spent the evening sleeping out in cardboard boxes in a field next to the church.
Michelle Funk, director of Christian education at St. John's UCC, right, and David DiPaolantonio, youth leader at Union United Church of Christ, Neffs, explain the evening's agenda to the teens. Michelle Funk, director of Christian education at St. John's UCC, right, and David DiPaolantonio, youth leader at Union United Church of Christ, Neffs, explain the evening's agenda to the teens.
Teens watch a video presented by Shane Burroughs, street outreach coordinator for Valley Youth House and head of the Synergy Project. Teens watch a video presented by Shane Burroughs, street outreach coordinator for Valley Youth House and head of the Synergy Project.
Shane Burroughs, street outreach coordinator for Valley Youth House, explains the purpose of the Synergy Project. The project, he said, helps teens with basic necessities and helps them find the resources they need to become self-sufficient. Shane Burroughs, street outreach coordinator for Valley Youth House, explains the purpose of the Synergy Project. The project, he said, helps teens with basic necessities and helps them find the resources they need to become self-sufficient.
Shelby Hafler of Schnecksville, left, and Rachel Dennis of Coplay begin working on the cardboard box they intend to sleep in overnight. Shelby Hafler of Schnecksville, left, and Rachel Dennis of Coplay begin working on the cardboard box they intend to sleep in overnight.
PRESS PHOTOS BY MARK RECCE FROM LEFT, COPLAY RESIDENTS SAMMY GERRY, AND RYAN CORRELL AND HIS MOTHER, DEANA, WORK ON THEIR CARDBOARD BOX. PRESS PHOTOS BY MARK RECCE FROM LEFT, COPLAY RESIDENTS SAMMY GERRY, AND RYAN CORRELL AND HIS MOTHER, DEANA, WORK ON THEIR CARDBOARD BOX.
Matt Kiser of Breinigsville makes sure his box is the appropriate size. Matt Kiser of Breinigsville makes sure his box is the appropriate size.
St. John's UCC Sextant Don Schneck of Whitehall starts the pit fire for the evening. St. John's UCC Sextant Don Schneck of Whitehall starts the pit fire for the evening.
A number of teens carry their boxes to a field adjacent to St. John's UCC where they slept for the evening. A number of teens carry their boxes to a field adjacent to St. John's UCC where they slept for the evening.
The street next to St. John's UCC is filled with teens and their cardboard boxes. The street next to St. John's UCC is filled with teens and their cardboard boxes.

Teens learn about homelessness

Thursday, October 16, 2014 by MARK RECCEK mreccek@tnonline.com in Local News

Teenagers from across the Northeast region learned first hand what it's like to be homeless.

St. John's United Church of Christ, Fullerton, hosted a sleep out for homelessness event Sept. 20 to raise awareness and money to help combat homelessness in the Lehigh Valley.

Roughly 100 teens from the Penn Northeast Conference of the United Church of Christ assembled before the sleep out to learn the causes and effects of teen homelessness.

Nancy Azar, associate conference minister for PNEC, said the event is held yearly to bring the issue of homelessness to area teens and churches.

"We have come to recognize the extent of homelessness, not just youth, but all over," she said. "It's a heart issue."

Michelle Funk, director of Christian education at St. John's UCC, helped put the event together this year.

"We want to make sure the kids are going to have a very good spiritual experience and learn about homelessness and how to do something about it," she said.

Shane Burroughs, street outreach coordinator for Valley Youth House, gave a brief overview of the Synergy Project. Its purpose is to build relationships with teens on the street, provide the basic necessities and direct the teens to the appropriate social service agencies.

Burroughs told the audience most teens desire a normal life.

"Homeless youth are very motivated to get out of the homeless situation," he said. "They're never truly comfortable."

Causes of homelessness, Burroughs said, include drug use, mental health issues, history of abuse, refusing to follow rules and sexual orientation and gender identification.

The Synergy Project provides transportation for the homeless teens to and from appointments, locating shelter and jobs, referrals, peer support and homeless prevention services to local school districts.

According to Burroughs, in 2013 there were between 1.6 and 2.6 million teens homeless in America. The actual number is closer to 3 million, he said.

"It's [teen homelessness] a lot more common and normal than a lot of us think," Burroughs said. "Homeless youth do not become homeless for no reason."

After Burroughs' presentation, the teens headed outside to construct their makeshift cardboard boxes. The teens then spent the evening sleeping in the cardboard boxes in a field adjacent to St. John's.

While the event was marked by a serious tone, the teens enjoyed themselves.

"I'm really glad I did it because I'm having a lot of fun," said Rachel Dennis of Coplay.

Last year the event raised $4,000. St. John's hopes to exceed that amount.

"I just want to thank you guys from the bottom of my heart for helping homeless youth in this area," Burroughs said.