I wake up yet again during my restless night.
It was 1 a.m. and just like every other time, I am cold.
As I wipe my eyes, little flakes of frost bounce off my face, like sand falling off your hands as you walk home from the beach.
My shelter has completely collapsed after only 5 short hours and the cardboard is laying on top of my body like the lid of a coffin.
I feel absolutely miserable and sick.
I feel the urge to vomit as I roll around the other way, holding myself still, praying for sleep and for the morning to come faster.
That one night, Nov 1, 2014, was a momentous night in my life.
It was our youth group’s annual homeless sleep-out in the church parking lot. After an afternoon of hesitation, my sister and I figured that we might as well try it because it might be fun.
It was the opposite however.
Throughout the night, we couldn’t sleep, couldn’t get comfortable, and couldn’t get warm.
By the morning, we had discovered that the sub-freezing temperatures, down to 23 degrees Fahrenheit, had left us covered in frost and freezing.
At exactly 6 a.m., 10 hours after we had arrived at the church, we threw the sad remains of our cardboard shelter into the recycling bin, and headed home to spend the rest of the day sleeping to recover.
It wasn’t until later, much later, when my belly was full, my core temperature had risen a few degrees, and my body had recuperated from its loss of sleep that I was able to really think about what had happened to me that night.
It was definitely a rough night for me, but yet again it was not as rough as it could have been.
I was sleeping in two down sleeping bags, covered with mounds of blankets, and wearing all of my snow gear, including gloves and multiple pairs of ski socks.
I had regularly walked inside to the bathroom and the heat, had people watching me, and protecting me if it was needed.
Also, I was not alone. My experience, although eye-opening, was nowhere near how bad it was for those that were truly homeless.
Thousands of people in Michigan are homeless, including 31,000 homeless students.
These people don’t have the sleeping bags, warm rooms to retreat to, and a place to go after just one night.
Night after night, thousands of people are scrambling to make ends meet and find warm, comfortable spots to stay.
Some of them are completely helpless with a family to support and look after.
I would never be able to handle the emotional pressure of watching my family freeze and go through misery.
In northern Michigan, homelessness should simply not be an option.
There were nights last winter where the temperature was below -30 degrees Fahrenheit.
No one, and I mean no one, should have to stay out in those conditions.
There is no way to even imagine sleeping outside night after night, without ever having a break from these hardships, especially for children.
Students need a home to stay in, so they can go to school and work on getting an education to improve their lives.
The Nehemiah project is located in Petoskey and is helping to fight homelessness and giving support to the homeless.
The whole project is growing, and they have expanded to owning multiple houses. In 2014, they were able to take in and provide shelter for 204 guests.
The Mary Margaret house is one of the houses of the Nehemiah Project. It opened in December of 2000 and is just for women and children.
Throughout the house’s fifteen years of operation, they have helped numerous guests find jobs, gain faith, and leave with more confidence about the future.
The shelter is open every night from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m.
This is to encourage the guests to do activities, such as search for jobs, during the day time.
They also have different phases of houses to slowly help people integrate back into the community.
The Mary Margaret House has a huge job.
There are few homeless shelters in the Upper Peninsula and around the northern Lower Peninsula, so the Mary Margaret House helps to support people from all over the state.
The Mary Margaret House does so much to support the people in our community and people from all over.
I would like to give one hundred dollars to them because they are helping so many people and do this with happiness and faith.
Instead of pursuing their own needs, they are responding to the needs of others.
I can’t begin to imagine how painful being homeless could be, emotionally and physically, but from my small sliver of experience, I don’t want anyone in our community to have to live like this.
I want to help them get back on their feet through an organization that I know will be able to care for them and show us all how to be compassionate and selfless, something that will improve lives everywhere.