Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
Email: | Twitter: @mhernandezwwl

NEW ORLEANS -- At 21 years old, Dontrell Allen has been living homeless for three years.

'I ended up on the streets. I was living from place to place.'

But last month she found shelter at the Covenant House, got a steady job and is finally looking forward to the future.

'I never (thought) that I would come this far at all,' she said.

Thursday night dozens of the community's biggest movers and shakers are walking in Allen's shoes. They're spending the night on cardboard boxes and sleeping bags in the courtyard of the Covenant House.

'I think we owe it to them to sort of walk in their shoes, to be where they are, and to meet them where we are and then we can serve them better,' said Judge Madeleine Landrieu, of the 4th District Court of Appeals.

But before community leaders lay down their heads, they're having a roundtable discussion with teens coming out of homelessness. It's all part of the Covenant House's first ever 'sleep out.'

The event is aimed at creating awareness about homelessness in New Orleans and raising funds for the strapped organization.

Nearly 100 homeless youth sleep in the Covenant House each night, more than double last year's average.

'Our staff are working twice as hard. They've got great hearts. They're phenomenally dedicated, and they love these kids like I do, and that's how we're doing it,' said Covenant House CEO Jim Kelly.

And the effort goes beyond one night in the cold. For those like Allen, it sends a message.

'That actually means a lot to me because I didn't think nobody really cared about us, like to take the time out to do that type of thing with us,' she said. 'So that means a whole lot to me.'

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