East Bethel church inviting public participation in homeless sleep out

For the first time, Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in East Bethel is
hosting a homeless sleep out to raise awareness of homelessness in
Anoka County and organizers are inviting the public to fold up a
cardboard box and join them.


by Eric Hagen
Staff writer

For the first time, Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in East Bethel is hosting a homeless sleep out to raise awareness of homelessness in Anoka County and organizers are inviting the public to fold up a cardboard box and join them.

Brad Mills, youth director with the East Bethel Church, located at 19001 Jackson St. N.E., said it is a youth event, but adults are encouraged to participate.

The homeless sleep out starts at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 8 and goes through the night before ending at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 9. Contact Mills at 763-434-6117; ext. 120 if you are interested in participating.

The idea for this homeless sleep out came from an effort by Heading Home Anoka, which includes government agencies, businesses, churches, YMCAs, homeless shelter providers and other members of the community who are seeking to end homelessness in 10 years.

This effort spawned out of Heading Home Minnesota and each county is developing its own plan. Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah chairs the education committee of Heading Home Anoka. The other three committees focus on family, youth and adult homelessness.

“It’s not a government run, county initiative because it’s something the whole community needs to be involved with,” Sivarajah said. “It’s not something government alone can solve.”

Besides Our Savior’s Lutheran Church a few other churches will be involved, but the list is not finalized, Sivarajah said. All homeless sleep outs will occur in November, which will be homeless awareness month.

Jeanette Offerdahl is a volunteer with this effort and a member of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church who brought up the idea of a homeless sleep out to Mills.

As an avid volunteer, Offerdahl was moved to help after reading an article in the Anoka County newsletter about homelessness.

“I just knew there had to be homeless people in Anoka County,” she said. “I had no idea how to identify them or how to get involved in any organization until I saw this article in the Anoka County newsletter.”

Sivarajah said you don’t always see homeless people on the street in this area, so not everybody realizes it is a problem. Sometimes a homeless person has a car to sleep in or they sleep behind the bushes by their place of employment so they can get to work early in the morning.

“One of the things we thought was people will not be able to even look at the issue unless they realize it’s a problem,” Sivarajah said.

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com.

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