The community stepped up strongly in support of the Sleep Out campaign’s 26th year.

The effort, organized by Plymouth-based nonprofit Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners, rallies residents to raise awareness and funds that go toward preventing homelessness for local individuals and families.

The year-end campaign began Nov. 1 and successfully surpassed the $3 million fundraising goal by Dec. 31, making it a record-breaking year for the Sleep Out.

“We are beyond thrilled,” said Deb Lande, marketing and communications director for Interfaith Outreach.

The final figure is still being tallied, but Lande said leaders with the nonprofit organization are grateful and proud that the community stepped up yet again to help break the fundraising goal.

The funds will support Interfaith Outreach’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. Heading into this year’s campaign, nonprofit leaders estimated that the Sleep Out has helped to prevent homelessness in about 35,000 cases.

Each year, many Sleep Out supporters brave the cold weather and sleep outside in boxes, tents and cars (or donate to those who do) as a reminder of what some struggling with homelessness face daily. Other community members opted 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.

Since the Sleep Out began, the nonprofit has collected more than $37 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.

The 26th Sleep Out was celebrated Nov. 13 with an outdoors kickoff event that welcomed around 150 people to the parking lot at Interfaith Outreach for food, music and marshmallow roasting around fire pits.

“It was a really great kickoff and it was super exciting to sort of get a little bit back to normal in these unusual times,” Lande said.

The campaign also introduced the free online event, “Housing, Homelessness & Mental Health,” which dove into and explored the impact of housing instability and homelessness on mental health. Lande said around 80 people watched the online conversation, which is available to watch on YouTube at bit.ly/3mXR3sr.

“That was really a great conversation in helping people understand the complexities of homelessness and the intersection between homelessness and mental health,” Lande said.

And with the pandemic continuing to have an impact the lives and incomes of local residents, Sleep Out organizers are especially grateful for another year of strong support from a giving community.

“The challenges that our neighbors are facing is unprecedented: The rising housing costs, the underemployment that people are experiencing. The expense and the lack of access to childcare and healthy foods are really burdens that individuals in our community are helping to alleviate and lift by being a part of this campaign.”

To learn more about the Sleep Out and Interfaith Outreach’s work, visit iocp.org.

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