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Volunteers connect with homeless families through Night Without a Bed

Family Promise of Knoxville held the virtual event to promote awareness and raise money

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Across the country, Family Promise supports homeless families. A network of faith communities and volunteers offer temporary housing, meals, mentoring and more.

Like all nonprofits, the organization is getting creative with awareness events and fundraising.

This past weekend, Family Promise of Knoxville joined a nationwide effort to challenge people to spend a night without a bed. 

Credit: WBIR
John Mark Brown is the Director of Family Promise of Knoxville

"Some of us camp for fun but here are folks in our community who are camping for survival," said John Mark Brown, the Director of Family Promise of Knoxville.

That inspired the Night Without a Bed event. Some participants shared their photos of how and where they slept last Saturday night. 

The remote event raised money for Family Promise of Knoxville and helped volunteers better understand the realities of homelessness by sleeping on the floor or a couch or even a hammock. 

"It was a way to connect personally with what it meant to be able to not sleep in a comfy, cozy bed," Janie Wallace said, a volunteer who joined the Family Promise Board in 2006.

Credit: WBIR
Janie Wallace is a volunteer who first joined the Family Promise Board in 2006

"I didn't like the thought that parents had to be separated from children in some of the traditional shelter arrangements," she said. "This was a way to keep the dignity of the parents and the dignity of the children by the way the program is structured and designed to support the family as a whole."

Credit: Family Promise of Knoxville
Volunteers slept on couches and floors and hammocks and also in tents

Family Promise works to help families before they lose their homes and resort to using emergency shelters or other ways to find places to sleep. The nonprofit is usually a hands-on organization.

Through the nonprofit, families shelter at churches and volunteers share meals with them, mentor them and play with the kids.

The coronavirus has complicated the mission, but not changed it. 

"In a time when we've all felt somewhat socially isolated, folks who are already kinda already on the margins have felt even more excluded or left out," he said. 

Credit: Janie Wallace
Janie Wallace spent the night in her car

Janie Wallace spent the night in her car in the parking lot at her church. 

"As I was lying there I was trying to think, what if I were trying to get an 18-month-old to go to sleep in a rather warm car in an uncomfortable situation," she said. "How that must be taxing on parents trying to do that."

Adults and children in families make up about a third of the homeless population. And many of them spend night after night after night without a bed. 

Credit: Family Promise of Knoxville
Night Without a Bed poster

"If you are seeing this broadcast then I would encourage you to consider trying for the whole night or part of the night to spend the night on the couch or on the floor or in your car or even to camp outside," he said. 

You can raise your own awareness with a night without a bed, help spread the word, and consider donating online