TIPP CITY — This Veteran’s Day, a group of local highschoolers are encouraging the community to sleep outside in order to bring awareness to a troubling reality: homelessness among veterans.
Tippecanoe High School’s Destination Imagination (DI) team developed a service project called “Operation Sleep to Save,” urging others to sleep in their own yards on Nov. 11 to shine a light on the thousands of homeless veterans who sleep outside every night.
“We want to show the struggle that homeless veterans go through every night,” THS student Phillip Bullard said.
The team is asking participants to tweet their experience to the group’s Twitter account @sleep2save_vets.
The project was inspired by a DI team member who was shocked to learn that there are thousands of homeless veterans during his volunteer work at the Miami Valley Veterans Museum.
Though it is difficult to get an accurate count, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that there are nearly 50,000 veterans sleeping on the street on any given night.
“That’s what sparked the idea of sleeping outside,” Bullard said.
About 23 percent of the nation’s homeless are veterans, DI member Cameron Martin said. Most of them are men and many struggle with mental health problems, physical disabilities, and substance abuse, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
“We wanted to raise awareness for veterans and then we tried to take it a step further and raise awareness specifically for homeless veterans,” team member Amelia Roeth said.
The group is also considering other ways to help homeless veterans in the future, such as collecting and donating food and sleeping bags.
DI is a worldwide competitive organization that provides opportunities for students to develop their problem-solving skill. Teams are given a list of challenges to choose from every year, and they must pick one and solve it creatively. Their solutions are presented to other teams at a regional competition.
This year’s challenge is called Project Outreach, program director Pam Staub said.