Quick: Envision a homeless person. If you conjure up an image of a grizzled man who carries all his possessions in a cart he pushes down the street, you're in line with the impression held by most people. You're also way off base.
"That image of the homeless is totally wrong today," said Leslie Frost, executive director of Families Moving Forward. Only about a third of the state's homeless are men. "The real image of the homeless today is a single mom and her baby. And it's not just a city problem; it's a suburban problem, too."
Frost oversees a faith-based organization based in Minneapolis that provides emergency shelter for homeless families, a problem that she said has reached the crisis stage.
"We used to be able to take care of one out of every 25 people who requested help," she said. "As of October of 2007, the number had dropped to one in 50, and by July of '08, which was the last time we counted, it was one in 100."
Frost's organization has joined forces with a similar group in St. Paul, Project Home, and the councils of churches from both cities to sponsor a Cardboard Box City next week. Youths will spend Thursday night (it's MEA weekend) at the State Fairgrounds sleeping in cardboard boxes after they are served dinner in a soup line.
"At the last count, we had 409 kids, and we still haven't heard from 20 organizations who said they were sending groups," she said Wednesday. They originally had hoped for 350. "I have to keep calling the State Fair and asking for more space."
The event, which takes place in the park across the street from the 4-H Building, has two goals: To raise awareness of the problems faced by the homeless and to raise money to help.
"Each group got pledge forms and agreed to raise at least $100," she said. "That was our goal, but from what we're hearing, we're likely to be closer to $100 per sleeper."
Frost has one more thing she'd like: "The night of the sleepover, I want it to be cold and dry," she said. Cold so the kids experience what it's like to spend the night battling the elements, and dry because she'll be sleeping in one of the cardboard boxes.
For more information about the organization or the event go to www.familiesmoving forward.org.
We're No. 1
St. John Vianney Seminary in St. Paul is now the nation's largest Roman Catholic seminary.
The school, housed on the campus of the University of St. Thomas, has an enrollment of 154, nearly twice the number of just seven years ago. Its nearest competitor, Pontifical College in Ohio, has 119 seminarians.
The Rev. William Baer, the seminary's rector, attributes the growth spurt to several factors, beginning with the school's objective.
"We're focused on a strong leadership format," he said. "We're not training people to be monks. We're not training people to be academicians. We're training them to be future leaders of organizations, some of them very large organizations."
Baer, who has been at the seminary for 10 years, said that success builds upon success. "People look for results. As our graduates go out and are successful, people realize that we are offering a quality program."
There is another factor that he says people have been slow to pick up on. "One of the biggest unreported stories is that there is rising interest in the priesthood among young men," he said. "There have been a lot of stories about the shortage of priests, and that's certainly very real. But we're also seeing a new wave of young men coming forward from traditional Catholic families."
Out-of-practice Hebrew speakers who want to kick off the rust are invited to an informal group that will be meet twice monthly through May at Adath Jeshurun Synagogue in Minnetonka. Called Yanshufim (Owls), the group will be led by Renana Schneller, a professor of Hebrew at the University of Minnesota. To make sure you have something to talk about, participants will be asked to subscribe to a "simplified" Hebrew newspaper, Yanshuf.
There is a fee of $150, with a $50 discount for additional family members. There is a free "try me" session at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the synagogue, 10500 Hillside Lane W. near the intersection of Cedar Lake Road and Hwy. 169.
Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392