Chris Maus is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Philadelphia and president of CAMCO Property Management. Chris sits on the board of directors for Covenant House Pennsylvania, which provides housing and supportive services to youth (age 21 and younger) facing homelessness or human trafficking. Covenant House is a national organization that helps young people transform their lives by putting them on a path to independence. On November 21, 2019, for the fifth year, Chris and 13 team members participated in the Executive Sleep Out to promote awareness of homeless youth. We asked Chris about the experience and how he's making an impact as an entrepreneur. Here's what he shared.
It's a staggering statistic: Every year, more than 4.2 million kids and young adults in the US experience a period of homelessness, and an estimated 700,000 of those are unaccompanied minors--without a family or an adult guardian.
As president of a property management company and the father of three daughters ages 20 months to 13 years, the importance of having a safe, warm place to call home and of protecting children, teenagers and young adults from the evils of the world are deeply ingrained in me.
That's why--to raise awareness about homeless youth and human trafficking--I spent Thursday night sleeping outside on the cold, hard pavement with only a cardboard box and a sleeping bag to protect me from the elements. And I brought a team, including my oldest daughter, along for the experience.
We were among 210 people in Philadelphia and thousands of others across the country participating in Covenant House's Executive Sleep Out, which raises funds for and brings awareness to youth experiencing homelessness. The Philadelphia Sleep Out raised more than $550,000. The idea is that we sleep outside so that they won't have to ever again.
Sleep Out is a memorable evening. Before we grab a cardboard box and a sleeping bag to head outside, there's an informative program about how what we're doing helps change the lives of thousands of kids each year. Dr. Ken Ginsberg, who's been with the organization for 35 years, spoke about providing support and care for all of the young adults in the program. Hugh Organ, Associate Executive Director, spoke about human trafficking, why youth wandering the streets are particularly vulnerable to it, and outlined specific areas in our city where trafficking is known to take place.
We also heard from one of the residents, a young woman from West Philadelphia, who was thrown out of her home at age 15. By age 17, she had a baby and found herself homeless. Fortunately, Covenant House provided a bed and daycare so she could attend college. She'll graduate soon and is on her way to building a successful, fulfilling life.
I'm glad my daughter, Mackenzie, got to be a part of Sleep Out. It's a very eye-opening event. I watched her sitting on a blanket outside, long after midnight, talking to other team members, sharing how and why they decided to sleep out, and discussing fundraising ideas for next year.
Five years ago, our first Sleep Out team was just my wife, Stacy, and me. This year we had 13 people!
Sleep Out is an act of compassion. You gain a genuine respect for what homeless youth go through. It's an unforgettable experience. Sleeping on the street on a cold November night is incredibly humbling. Laying in a box in the cold gives you a small window of perspective into what these young adults go through each and every night. It helps you understand how scary it is to be unprotected, experiencing the harshness of the elements.
What did you learn from participating in Sleep Out?
Don't take it from me. Here's what eight team members from our company shared:
"I was shocked to learn the high volume of teen human trafficking. And I'll never forget the actual Sleep Out: It was cold, loud and very uncomfortable. I can only imagine what homeless kids go through, especially when it's snowing and raining." ― Savannah Garcia
"This was my third Sleep Out. It's a stark reminder of what homeless youth go through each night they are on the streets and the tough situations they face. I'm glad the event is growing, with more people participating every year." ― Ron White
"This was my second year participating; I was quite surprised to learn that one in five youth are victims of human trafficking, and that it's happening so close to home." ― Christina D'Annunzio
"I participated in Sleep Out because I've heard my dad say it's a great experience that will truly change your life. This year was my first time. It was hard--but not because of the weather or because I didn't know anyone. It was hard to think so many kids have to go through what I had to do for only one night. And most of the kids are around my age or just a couple years older--I'm 13." ― Mackenzie Maus
"Learning that these kids are not wanted by their families and have no one to turn to, but have so much love to give and share with the world--it's heartbreaking. Knowing what the organization does for homeless youth not only in Philadelphia but nationally, I came back for my second Sleep Out." ― Daniel Criswell
"After hearing first-hand what the residents went through as homeless youth, it makes you thankful for things we sometimes take for granted--a safe home, a comfortable bed, the ability to open the pantry or refrigerator and get food 24/7, toiletries, a shower, clean clothing, shoes and a warm coat. And most importantly, knowing that we are surrounded by a loving, supportive family." ― Stacy Maus
"I'll never forget the feeling of sleeping outside in the cold, on the ground. You see homeless people doing it, but actually experiencing it makes it very real. A lot of homeless teens landed in that position because their parents made poor decisions. The morning after Sleep Out, I called my parents and thanked them for everything they have given me." ― Kriston McCard
"This was my fourth Sleep Out. It's an easy cause to support: When you think about it, who speaks for homeless teenagers? They don't have a voice, and because of that, they are Ground Zero for all kinds of unsavory abuse. I'm grateful that I live in a country where we can work to provide a path for these young people to end the cycle of poverty and homelessness. I say it every year: Sleep Out is by far the best night of the year!" ― Stephen Gothard