Several hundred metro-area teenagers, including some from Roseville, plan to sleep outside Thursday night in cardboard boxes or tents at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds to raise attention to the plight of homelessness.
The teenagers and their adult chaperones will be participating in the fifth annual Cardboard Box City, whose goals include raising funds for two programs serving homeless families.
As of Wednesday afternoon, nearly 700 youth from Twin Cities area church and school groups had registered to attend, according to event organizers. That includes nine students from a youth group at Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Roseville.
The Cardboard Box City event is sponsored by Families Moving Forward, a shelter program of PORTICO Interfaith Housing Collaborative, and Project Home, a program of the St. Paul Council of Churches. Both organizations will share the proceeds from the event. Both programs engage congregations as hosting sites for temporary emergency shelter for families, the groups said.
Organizers said that Cardboard Box City youth participants are expected to raise at least $42 – the cost of sheltering one child for a day.
Liz Russell, Corpus Christi's senior high youth minister, said her church has done several activities with the St. Paul Area Council of Churches, including sending volunteers to Project Home.
"A few of our youth had voiced an interest in sleeping outside in cardboard boxes, so when I received information from SPACC about Cardboard Box City last year, I knew that we had to participate," Russell told Roseville Patch. "We had four youth sleep out last year. This year, nine of our youth are planning to attend."
Russell added, " Our goal in participating is to raise money for Project Home and Families Moving Forward, but also to raise awareness about family homelessness. When more people know, more people can help. We can raise more money and, ultimately, help more families that are struggling."
So far, the Corpus Christi youth group has raised $410 this year towards abating homelessness, Russell said. "It takes $42 to house one homeless person for one night, so we are making a very small dent in the money needed to get these families back on their feet.
"Last year's event was really cold, but also really fun," Russell said. "The most memorable part was when two women, with their kids in tow, spoke about how they became homeless, what it was like to be without permanent housing, and how they were helped by Families Moving Forward. They were so grateful and both were very proud to now be neighbors in an apartment complex.
"It was then that I realized that this event (Cardboard Box City) is about much more than making sure all Minnesota families have a warm place to sleep," Russell said. "It's about giving these families their dignity back."