Volunteers Teach Kids About Suburban Homelessness
Interfaith Outreach is in the middle of their biggest fundraising push of the year. During their annual Sleep Out campaign, they encourage people to sleep outside and raise awareness and money to fight homelessness.
“The challenge that we are seeing is that 429 showed up at our doorstep last year, experiencing homelessness at some point throughout the year. That’s almost one in five families we serve,” explains Deb Lande with Interfaith Outreach. “That is an unprecedented number. We’ve never seen anything like that level before. We are seeing a rise in poverty and we’re seeing a rise in need and individuals needing a place to live.”
Creating a “Bedless Night”
As the annual Interfaith Outreach Sleep Out campaign continues to grow and evolve, there’s a renewed emphasis on sleep out events more resembling suburban homelessness. In the suburbs, homeless families don’t necessarily sleep outside, but instead sleep on the couches or floors of friends and relatives.
Melissa Swoverland and her daughter Madisyn created an event for Madisyn’s friends that gives the young people a better understanding of suburban homelessness.
“Even though someone isn’t standing out on the corner as homeless, they could still not have a place to call home,” explains Melissa. “They are probably sleeping on someone’s couch.”
Last year, Melissa and Madisyn kicked off a “bedless night” sleepover at their Maple Grove apartment where Madisyn invited friends over to learn about homelessness. The six girls bought sleeping bags and slept on the floor.
“We used the downtime of our bedless night to go over stories out of a kit that IOCP provided on how to make the experience impactful for everyone involved,” explains Melissa.
The group also made bags with uplifting messages that the girls could take home and hand out to a panhandler or someone who they perceive is homeless.
“Each girl was sent home with a care package to keep in the back of her car and hand them out whenever we see a homeless person,” says Melissa.
Important to Melissa and Madisyn
The issue of suburban homelessness hits home with Melissa and Madisyn. They were homeless for a short time a few years ago.
“We’ve been there,” explains Melissa. “We are very grateful for our life now. However, we understand now that we are in a place to give back and it’s super important that we can.”
This year, Melissa and Madisyn hope to involve more than 15 girls and make 150 care packages to pass out.
“We are so blessed to have these two so involved in our work,” explains Deb Lande, from Interfaith Outreach. “They are literally creating excitement and enthusiasm and joy for the work we do in the community.”
Want to learn more?
Interfaith Outreach hopes to raise $2.4 million with this year’s Sleep Out campaign and they are still a long way away from the goal. If you’d like information on how to donate or host an event at your home or place of business, check out Interfaith Outreach’s website.