Haley to sleep on street to benefit homeless shelter
Next month, restaurateur Matt Haley will trade in his chef’s toque for a piece of cardboard, to sleep on the streets of Washington, D.C.
Haley is one of many executives who will be participating in the Covenant House Solidarity Sleep-Out to help raise awareness and support for homeless youth.
“I believe every child has the right to a bed and a meal,” said Haley. “A reason we have an issue with homeless children — not only in Delaware or D.C., but in the United States — most of the children that are homeless are runaways due to abuse situations where they feel it’s safer to live on the streets than at home.”
Haley, who was born and raised in D.C., has previously been involved with homeless organizations and youths, including Clean & Sober Streets.
Haley said that his involvement is of a personal nature, after having experienced being homeless when he was a child.
“I was raised in an environment where my mother, when I was a young boy, had to make a decision to leave my father and put us in a car with nowhere to go. We were fortunate enough after a couple of days to find shelter,” he said.
“This was dating back 40 years ago, when women didn’t leave their husbands,” he noted. “My mother made the decision to leave to protect us. I’ve always had that as a reminder of what it was like to be with a woman who protected us. At some level, I’ve tried to apply that in my life.”
Haley has a goal of raising $5,000 and as of this week had already raised $4,000 of that. Before the Sleep-Out, he will donate $2,500 of his own money to Covenant House, as well.
“It’s fantastic. I’m incredibly excited about it. It’s amazing to me how this Southern Delaware community, this Delmarva community that we live in, how supportive they are of all the causes that we as a community are involved in,” he said.
“It costs a lot per day to feed and shelter a child,” he emphasized. “This is a very organized organization that gets the job done. It’s more than just feeding and sheltering a child, it’s about developing programs so that children and young teens can get the help they need to deal with the issue they have… so they can move on to a better life.”
According to its website, Covenant House was “founded in 1972 with the simple, profound mission to help homeless kids escape the streets. Today [it is] the largest privately funded charity in the Americas providing loving care and vital services to homeless, abandoned, abused, trafficked and exploited youth.” Covenant House has shelters all across the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
Last year, Covenant House Street Outreach Teams and Residential and Community Service Center programs cared for more than 50,000 at-risk and homeless kids in 21 cities in the United States, Canada and Central America.
The Sleep-Out will take place on Nov. 21, from 7 p.m. that night to 7 a.m. the following day, on Mississippi Avenue in southeast Washington, D.C.
“I’ll be there rain, shine, snow, whatever... I plan on doing this thing full-tilt, with no way to tap into anything other than what somebody who’s homeless would experience. I’ve had that experience myself when I was younger,” Haley said. “There’s no sleeping bags, no lounge chairs.
“I’m taking it a step further,” he added. “I’m not going to eat for a 36-hour period. I’m kind of committed to living the life of a homeless person that’s hungry. I’ll grab a piece of cardboard out of the trash somewhere, lie down on the sidewalk and go to bed. I don’t plan on doing anything other than that.”
Last year, 450 business leaders from across North America spent one night on the street and collectively raised more than $3 million to support Covenant House’s life-saving programs for homeless youth.
This is Haley’s first year participating in the Sleep-Out, but he said he knew he had to be a part of it when Michelle DiFebo Freeman asked him to participate.
“She’s a very good friend of mine and will be with me that night. I’m very grateful she allowed me the opportunity to be a part of this event.”
He said that, although this is his first year in the event, he plans to continue to participate in years to come.
“Absolutely. And we’re going to try to tag-along our community. I’ll do the one in D.C., and then a group of young people who work with us at the restaurants, they’ll do a sleep-out in one of the parking lots of the restaurants.”
Haley supports numerous organizations in Delmarva and even established the Global Delaware Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing goods and services to children at risk in distressed situations. The GDF provides essential services to children and adults locally and throughout the world.
“We do wonderful things all over the world and all over our community. We believe in an hour here, an hour there, a dollar here, a dollar there. Part of what the Global Delaware Fund is is being involved, whether it’s in the slums of India or a school in Nicaragua or an orphanage in Nepal or shelter for homeless teens in Washington, D.C.”
He added that he feels it is important to support causes both inside and outside of one’s own community.
“Somebody asked me, ‘Why are you doing this in D.C.?’ Well, one, we do an incredible amount of work in the Southern Delaware and Delmarva area. And this is another way to raise national and global awareness, which is another way to achieve things at home.”
Haley said he’s happy to be able to give back to the community, after being supported himself over the years. He said he hopes more people will get involved and support such worthy causes. He added that he hopes his participation will inspire others.
“I’m not going to say it’s tough, because it’s just more important for me to be involved, experience it exactly the way it’s supposed to be experienced, and raise awareness and funds which will help children,” he said.
To donate to Covenant House through Haley’s Sleep-Out, visit the website at http://covhou.convio.net/site/TR/SleepOut/SleepOutExecutiveEdition?px=16.... For more information about Covenant House, visit www.covenanthouse.org. For more information on the Global Delaware Fund, visit www.theglobaldelawarefund.com.