Homelessness is a condition that affects 1.5 million people in the United States each year. If you had to describe a homeless person what would you say? I imagine many of you might picture an individual plagued with alcohol or drug addiction, perhaps someone who suffers from mental illness, a military veteran who has no support or means to re-enter civilian life, or maybe simply someone down on their luck. In general, I would bet most people would immediately picture an adult, but in the U.S., 1 in 30 children will experience homelessness every year. They arrive at shelters with just the shirt on their back; victims of the lack of affordable housing, extreme poverty, domestic violence, and many have never known the joy of having any possessions of their own.
As we start to shape what AdaptivePath.org will be and how it will help create great human experiences, we are starting to uncover opportunities to partner with organizations that are already on the path to greatness like Project Night Night. Project Night Night was started in 2005 by Kendra Stitt Robins. Their mission is to address the comfort and emotional well-being of homeless children by delivering “Night Night packages” to every homeless child in the country. The Night Night packages are composed of a stuffed animal, a blanket, and a book tucked inside a canvas tote bag, and each year, the organization delivers over 25,000 packages to homeless children 12 and under. The items provide comfort and a nighttime ritual to help them sleep soundly in what can be a disorienting new place.
This past week, as part of the Capital One initiative “Digital Gives Back”, we were honored to contribute to the effort by holding a drive, stuffing 100 tote bags, and delivering them to GLIDE’s child care center. As designers looking to help transform the world through experiences, Project Night Night stood out to us in the way they approach their mission by considering the actual needs of the people they’re serving. Although giving homeless kids a stuffed animal, a blanket, and a book might seem like a small gesture, the items provide a reliable source of comfort and security during a time of upheaval and in turn, can transform the tumultuous experience of homelessness. The organizers fine-tune little aspects of the back-stage processes based on stories they’ve heard from children, parents, and shelter workers. For example, our initial instinct was to remove the tags from the blankets to fit into the tote bags more effectively. They asked us to keep them intact based on the experience of one boy who never took the tag off his blanket because it was the first new thing he’d ever owned.
If you’re interested in learning more or donating materials or your time, please visit www.projectnightnight.org for more information.