TWO RIVERS — While most people were cozy and warm inside their homes this past weekend, a group of people braved the elements to raise awareness and money to combat homelessness.
Twenty people participated in the second annual Braven for The Haven winter tent camping event, which began at noon Saturday and concluded 24 hours later at Point Beach State Forest along the shores of Lake Michigan.
“It was awesome to see so many people come out here to support this cause,” said a bundled up Deacon Mark LeGreve of Two Rivers, co-founder and board president of The Haven, the only men’s homeless shelter in Manitowoc County. Deacon LeGreve, a member of St. Peter the Fisherman Parish in Two Rivers, was ordained as a deacon in May 2014.
“This was a chance for all of us to connect with nature, live simply, form a sense of community and unite for something that’s worthwhile,” he said.
The attendance more than tripled the number of people (six) at last year’s inaugural event. Next year’s event is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 28-29.
Among the winter campers this past weekend were several boys and adult chaperones from Boy Scout Troop 925 in Two Rivers. Troop members originally were planning to winter camp at another location to get their winter wilderness survival badges (they came fully packed and ready, survival knives, canteens and first-aid kits), but when they heard about Braven For The Haven they changed plans to support the cause. One of the boys even slept part of the evening in a dugout snowbank in true Scout fashion.
In all, there were 11 tents housing people at the event.
Temperatures were unseasonably warm, reaching into the upper 30s during the daytime both Saturday and Sunday. As nighttime approached Saturday, campers gathered around a campfire to share food and fellowship.
“I didn’t really even get that cold overnight,” Deacon LeGreve said. “I dressed in layers, wore tight, synthetic dry-fit gear, wore some wool and provided myself with a good barrier between my body and the cold ground. It really wasn’t that bad.”
Campers were treated to a special sight Sunday morning — the sun, glowing orange and red, shining brilliantly through an opening in the overcast sky as it rose over the Lake Michigan horizon. “It was absolutely beautiful,” Deacon LeGreve said.
Overall, Deacon LeGreve said the event was a success. Not only did it increase exposure for The Haven but it raised money in the form of pledges and, hopefully, donations that will be made to the shelter.
When The Haven opened in spring 2014 in the old St. Boniface School, it could accommodate eight single, adult men at one time. As of last month (January), it expanded to serving 12 men, with hopes of increasing that number to 20 next year.
The Haven assisted 61 men and provided a combined 2,243 overnight stays in 2015. Thirty-eight of those 61 men successfully transitioned from The Haven’s program.
“I think it’s important to support The Haven because there are always going to be homeless people in need of assistance,” Deacon LeGreve said. “It’s important that we always keep an eye out for others, because we’ve all been in need at one time or another in our lives.”