Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners has launched its latest campaign to help prevent homelessness for local individuals and families.
For decades, the Plymouth-based human service nonprofit organization has raised awareness and funds for homelessness prevention during the annual Sleep Out effort. This year’s campaign will run Nov. 14 through Dec. 11.
Now in its 27th year, the Sleep Out returns with a timely focus: housing instability and unaffordability.
“Housing costs are a major issue in our service area and for our clients,” said Interfaith Outreach Executive Director Kevin Ward. “Housing is typically considered affordable when it’s within 30% of a household’s annual income. For the average Interfaith client, rent or mortgage costs make up around 58% of their income. It’s just not sustainable.”
The nonprofit is raising funds to support the organization’s work to help families address their immediate needs and provide follow-up support through case managers, food shelf access, employment services, housing and transportation.
Since the Sleep Out began, the nonprofit has collected more than $34 million and has provided help to families in the nonprofit’s service area of Hamel, Long Lake, Medicine Lake, Medina, Minnetonka Beach, Orono, Plymouth and Wayzata. Last year’s record-breaking Sleep Out raised more than $3 million.
Many Sleep Out supporters, as individuals or part of a group, brave the cold weather to sleep outside in boxes, tents and cars (or donate to those who do) as a reminder of what some struggling with homelessness face daily.
Throughout the campaign, community members may also opt to sleep inside as a way to bring families together and reflect on some of the ways neighbors experience homelessness, which oftentimes includes having to crash on a family member’s or friend’s couch or floor.
According to the organization, of the active Interfaith Outreach families who experienced homelessness last year, 35% lived in a shelter, 27% lived outside or in a car and 26% lived doubled up with family or friends.
“Realistically, homelessness doesn’t necessarily appear in our community as people sleeping in tents or encampments. ... We’re really trying to talk about how Interfaith supports people who are facing housing instability and are maybe at risk of eviction or homelessness and how we can help them overcome those challenges,” said Kelley Burfeind, fundraising communications manager for Interfaith Outreach.
This year, the focus of the Sleep Out is on how the organization helps clients overcome issues that can lead to eviction or homelessness – like low wages or lack of access to transportation to their job – so they can stay in their homes, their neighborhoods and their schools.
“By providing holistic services, Interfaith helps people right here, right now, at risk of eviction or homelessness. We can and do work with organizations or developers to create more affordable rental units in our community, but unfortunately that doesn’t happen overnight,” Ward said.
In addition to raising funds to support Interfaith Outreach programs, this year’s Sleep Out also includes a community challenge: to reach 526 Sleep Out participants. According to Interfaith Outreach leaders, the number 526 represents each housing-related financial assistance the organization made last year to prevent eviction or homelessness.
“We hope this number adds even more meaning to the Sleep Out activities our supporters have been holding since its earliest years. It shows that we provided the equivalent of more than one housing assist a day. Essentially every day last year, we kept someone in their home,” Ward said.
Those wishing to take part in the community challenge can share their “sleep out” experience on social media using the hashtag #sleepout22. To learn more, visit iocp.org/526-challenge.
The Sleep Out dates back to 1996 when Bob Fisher, a Wayzata shoe repairman, unknowingly launched the community campaign after deciding to collect donations to sleep in a tent on winter nights to provide Thanksgiving meals for struggling families. In two weeks, Fisher had raised thousands of dollars and the Sleep Out was born.
To learn more about how to organize your own Sleep Out event or to donate directly to the 2022 campaign, visit iocp.org/thesleepout.