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Recently, some of our staff participated in the Urban Plunge Street Retreat hosted by Mobile Loaves and Fishes in Austin. Check out the first of a three part series of first-hand accounts reflecting on the experience and lessons learned:

This weekend I witnessed the struggles, dangers and reality of those experiencing homelessness. I also learned my own strengths and weaknesses, while seeing the hearts of those working alongside us in the fight to end homelessness. The most impactful moment for me came Saturday morning.

Now, I must admit that when I was first told we’d be sleeping outside (21 degrees!) I was a bit nervous. Friday night began with us being dropped off at a park in the outskirts of Austin. Then we walked. We walked, and walked, and walked some more as we made our way into the heart of the city. The point of our exodus was to see the path and reality of many of those living on the streets. We met with individuals and learned their stories. Eventually, we settled in for the night on a church’s playground.

And while we were able to find a safe place to sleep, I was still restless. It was hard to get comfortable or maintain heat in my sleeping bag. The night dragged on forever and my bones felt frozen. At 6:00 am one of our leaders (we called them Shepherd’s) yelled out “Good Morning Lord!” We were all asked to take a deep breath and yell out “Good Morning Lord!” At that moment I gave thanks to my Lord for letting me survive through the long walk and very cold night.

Our Shepherd instructed us to get up quickly so we could walk to a nearby church for a hot meal. Within 10 minutes the team was packed and moving. I was tired, worn out, and found myself waiting in a long line to receive breakfast. We sat and ate with others, talking and learning about their experiences, advice, and praying. We learned later on that some sleeping on the streets that night had died and it was then that it really hit me how dangerous and cruel this weather truly was. It was then that I started to understand how lucky we were to have slept on a playground floor the night before and that I had a sleeping bag. I prayed again that morning and thanked the Lord for keeping me not only alive, but for this glimpse into the reality so many are facing daily. – Rosa Dominguez