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'Putting love into action': SJC leaders experience homelessness in overnight challenge

'They go to sleep as challengers, but they wake up as champions to really spread the word and to know what it's like not have the comfort of their bed.'

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — As you slept in your beds Friday night, St. Johns County leaders gave up the comfort of their homes to experience and understand what it’s like to be homeless.

“This is something personal to me. As a 25+ year veteran in St. Johns County, we have dealt with homelessness our entire careers, so this is special to me," said Rob Hardwick, St. Johns County Sheriff-elect.

Hardwick is one of almost a dozen people that grabbed some tarp, a sleeping bag and found a spot outside in the woods for Alpha-Omega Miracle Home's First Coast Sleep Out Challenge. 

Ready to face the rain or cold, founder Lisa Franklin said, it’s a daily reality for many in the community.

“Right here in St. Johns County, these young ladies are trying to raise children in a safe environment where they are not sleeping truly under the bridge, in a cardboard box," Franklin explained.

Participants also known as "challengers" have a goal of raising awareness of the homelessness in their community and $100,000 for the non-profit that focuses on supporting women and their children who are transitioning out of poverty. All the money raised will go toward a $10.7 million project to build 100 units of housing, a community care center and a daycare on Collins Avenue.

“They go to sleep as challengers, but they wake up as champions – to really spread the word and to know what it's like to be sleeping outside and not have the comfort of their bed," Franklin said.

The challengers will be raising money until 7 a.m. Saturday. If you would like to donate to a challenger, you can do so by visiting the Alpha-Omega Miracle Home website.