My wife Ann is the homeless student liaison for the School District of Janesville, a city about 15 miles north of us. As part of that, she’s involved with an effort to set up a shelter for homeless teens, an effort called Project 16:49. An article in yesterday’s Beloit Daily News covers one part of the fundraising initiative: a benefit concert to be held at the Marine Corps League on January 29. If you’re in the area and would like to help out, be sure to attend. Besides all the music, there’s a raffle with some cool prizes too. (If you’re on Facebook, you can find details there too.)
Of course, if you’re not going to be around or just don’t care for such events, you can still donate to the cause. I spent a good chunk of my weekend setting up a website for Project 16:49. It now comes with a bright and shiny “Donate” button, so please chip in if you can.
Project 16:49 gets its name from Sixteen Forty-Nine, a documentary created by local director R. E. Burgos that tells the story of three homeless teens here in Beloit. It’s both heartbreaking and motivating at the same time. Ann and her partners at Project 16:49 have been showing the film to various groups around the area, and it never fails to move everyone who sees it.
Sixteen Forty-Nine‘s next public showing is at the Beloit International Film Festival, the weekend of February 17–20. If you can make it, it’s well worth the effort.
So, where does that odd title come from? For a homeless teen, being in school is often the safest and best part of their day. Getting through the rest of the day is the long slog, wondering where they’re going to go, what they can find to eat, and where they’re going to sleep. From the moment they leave school one night and return the next morning, it’s sixteen hours and forty-nine minutes.