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Sleepout: Raising Awareness of Homelessness

High school students explore issues of local homelessness by spending a night in make-shift cardboard box shelters.

Community Contact Information:

Bet Shalom Congregation

Minnetonka, MN

http://www.betshalom.org/

 

Goals:

  • Explore issues of homelessness through dialogue, hands-on experience.
  • Partner with community organizations.
  • Build a long-term teen program of education, advocacy/activism and fundraising for issues of housing and homelessness.

 

Overview: This program sought to educate high school congregants on issues of housing and homelessness through dialogue and hands-on experiences.

 

Preparation: The congregation’s youth group and confirmation class formed a committee to arrange program with local teen shelter. Preparation included acquiring education materials, speakers and program outline. Additionally, committee members split tasks with different individuals responsible for participant recruitment, bake sale coordination and blanket drive.

 

Program Implementation: Program was carried out by working with area teen shelter. In one evening, participants built cardboard shelters, prepared canned food meals, gathered together for serious group discussion, spoke to representatives from local youth shelter and slept outside in their make-shift structures. The following morning, the parents of program participants joined the program. Programming continued with additional presentations from area professionals, a community-run bake sale to raise money for an area shelter and a community blanket drive. Programming focused on the dangers of runaway teens, lifestyle inflicted on the homeless and ways to get involved in local housing and homelessness issues.

 

Results: The program succeeded in educating both youth and parents on the issue of homelessness. It also raised awareness within the congregation, as congregants were encouraged to make purchases at the bake sale (raised over $560) and donate blankets for the blanket drive.