When PROP Food Shelf recently received a $1,300 donation from the Eden Prairie United Methodist Church youth group, it stuck out to marketing director Kelli Steidle because of what the teens did to raise the money. They spent a night outside in cardboard shelters in October to raise awareness of the need for programs for people experiencing homelessness and housing instability.
Terry Myer is the church’s director of youth ministry and helped run the sleep-out fundraiser on Oct. 26, when nighttime temperatures dropped to the 40s. The youth group has been doing the sleep-out fundraiser for over 15 years, and they’ve endured snow, rain and freezing temperatures before.
“It got chilly,” Myer said. “It wasn’t as bad as we’ve had in the past.”
The sleep-out ran from Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon and took place outside the United Methodist Church at 15050 Scenic Heights Road. The youth group collected donations of food from churchgoers on Sunday morning as well as cash donations, Myer said, and the food donations were dovetailed into the church’s larger food drive for PROP Food Shelf.
To make it an educational experience for the 14- to 18-year-old crowd, they watched a film about homelessness and played a card game where the youth took on an identity different than their own and saw how race, class and other socioeconomic factors can make it difficult or impossible to pay rent or feed yourself, even with a full-time job.
“They were amazed at the cost of things,” Myer recalled.
She’s hoping to turn the sleep-out into a city-wide effort by uniting youth groups from other churches, Myer told Eden Prairie News. Raising awareness of housing struggles in the suburbs is important, especially because it can be invisible in Eden Prairie, which has ordinances against panhandling and sleeping outside.
“We don’t see it in Eden Prairie, we only think it happens in Minneapolis where we see those people,” she said.