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Commentary: Sleep-out was a valuable lesson in what it feels like to be homeless

I imagine that people like Karen McGlinn sleep really well at night. She is the CEO of the Share Our Selves (S.O.S.) health center in Costa Mesa and has been since 1993.

McGlinn works tirelessly to provide safety-net services to the homeless and the poor of Orange County. Her dedication dates to 1970, when she served on the founding board. She has proved to be a visionary leader who sees a future where needless suffering can be eradicated through healthcare, public education, supportive services and good old-fashioned loving kindness.

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The thing that sets her apart from so many other leaders is that she skillfully goes above and beyond the call of duty in creative and imaginative ways. Case in point: Without fanfare or the glare of mass media, she quietly added a little something extra to the annual drive to feed the homeless and impoverished families of Orange County this holiday season.

As if the daunting task of providing for a vulnerable community's Thanksgiving and Christmas wasn't enough, she introduced a new event, Sleep Out on Superior. The program was designed to broaden our understanding of what hope and provisions can mean to the neediest and most at-risk in our community. She wanted people to see the bigger picture.

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Under her leadership and direction, S.O.S. invited people to sleep outside overnight and explore the world of homelessness and hunger. Participants got to listen to a presentation by an equally powerful and influential leader, Larry Haynes, the executive director of Mercy House.

Following his moving speech, attendees also heard from several virtually unknown speakers who have faced homelessness, including me. I talked about the role that mental illness plays in homelessness and hunger. It was an honor to be a part of this inspiring event.

In a world where news headlines highlight all that goes wrong around us, I believe it is vitally important to value and celebrate when things go right. Thank you to Share Our Selves and McGlinn. Sleep well and keep dreaming.

Bradley Zint, a reporter for the Daily Pilot, slept out overnight at the event and wrote an interesting article.

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You can watch a video of the event produced by Costa Mesa Brief here.

Freelance writer KATHY CLINKENBEARD lives in Costa Mesa.

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