A Q&A with long-time Sleep Out Participant: Rolly Lagman
Updated: Sep 29
Rolly Lagman of Cisco is a veteran Sleeper, he has slept out every year since the first Sleep Out: Chicago in 2017.
How long you've been sleeping out: This year will be year number 6. My first sleepout was in 2017.
How you learned about CHIL and Sleep Out: At Cisco, we have a very strong give-back culture, to the point we are provided 80 hours a year slated for every full-time employee to give back along with donation matching for qualified organizations up to $25k. I learned about Cisco’s first Chicago Sleep Out through the person championing it for us (Jeff Berger). It caught my attention because it was such a departure from the traditional asks – a few hours during the workday or simply a monetary ask. I did a little research and was surprised that it wasn’t as simple as the issue of homelessness but that it was specifically for homeless youth.
Three things I learned by participating in Sleep Out:
1. The homeless can be youths. I think we all make the assumption that issues like homelessness only impact adults as that is usually who we encounter on city streets. But that certainly isn’t the case. Kids are affected by homelessness, too.
2. Homelessness can occur to anyone at any time. I learned this firsthand from a member of Covenant House Illinois. She lived in a well-to-do neighborhood and attended very fine public schools. When her mother died, that all changed.
3. We can make a difference. We really can. Maybe not an immediate global impact but we can make a difference by helping one person at a time, one act of kindness at a time. I have always believed this but every time I volunteer and give back, it gets reinforced.
What Sleep Out means to you: I never realized how staggering the numbers were. My brother’s best friend in high school was kicked out of his house in the final months of his senior year. He was basically bouncing from friend to friend to have somewhere to sleep for a couple of weeks. My family took him in so he could make it to graduation and then enlist in the Marines. When it happened, it felt like a "one-off family argument" but looking back, this was my first exposure to youth homelessness. Years later, when my wife and I were engaged, we had a good friend ask if he could sleep on our couch for a few nights - which grew to a few weeks. We didn’t want to intrude at the time, but after time we understood that he had also been kicked out of his home as well. In a short amount of time, I saw youth homelessness firsthand. It all clicked when I heard the stories from the folks during my first Sleep Out. As a first-generation kid here in the US coming from a country that still suffers from extreme poverty, it shocks and saddens me that homelessness in the US is so prevalent. We can make a difference. We can do better.
Tips for fundraising: Start early and have no shame! Reach out directly to people you are asking to donate and leverage all your social media channels. I have also asked many family members and friends to share on my behalf. I repost weekly with details and try to educate people so that they understand what the impact of youth homelessness really is and the staggering statistics. I also post heavily the evening of Sleeping Out as well as the following days to remind folks they can still donate. Also, I make sure to circle back to the folks that donated in years past to make sure they know that I am sleeping out again. And of course, I thank each donor personally. But I am also campaigning for Covenant House Illinois and Sleep Out all year round. I talk about CHIL and the Sleep Out regularly so that when I come asking for donations, no one is all that surprised.
Favorite thing about the overall Sleep Out experience: The first time I heard the stories of the individuals that were helped by CHIL, I knew I was going to be a Sleep Out champion and annual participant. Their stories were so powerful and touching that I knew I had found a cause I wanted to be connected to and help make a difference. I learn something new every Sleep Out and love being educated just a bit more every year.
Why others should consider participating in Sleep Out: The words ‘Homeless’ and ‘youth’ should never be next to each other in a sentence. As you can see from my past, we all probably know or knew someone who experienced homelessness even if we didn’t realize it at the time. Also, it is staggering to me how many Youth experiencing homelessness (40%) identify as LGBTQ+. Many of the stories shared with us during our Sleep Outs over the years were centered around how young people became homeless after coming out. As a longtime ally and parent of a LGBTQ+ child, it pains me, even more, to think that is frequently a factor.
Register for Sleep Out: Chicago today – www.SleepOut.org/Event/Chicago