The more money Rob Shrewsbury's friends and family donate to Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners, the less there will be between him and the elements when he spends a night sleeping outside on Friday.
For the past six years, Shrewsbury and his 10-year-old daughter, Emma, have participated in IOCP's annual Sleep Out -- a fundraising drive which has volunteers sleeping outside to raise money to fight homelessness. Each year, Shrewsbury tells the people he solicits donations from that the more money he raises, the less shelter he and Emma will allow themselves while they try to catch some winks under the stars.
"It's cold, but it's only one night," Shrewsbury said. "A few times when I've been laying there with my daughter snuggled up in a box, I've thought, 'Wow, what would it be like to have to get up and go to work every day after spending the night out here?'"
IOCP hopes the money raised by the Sleep Out will help others who may be facing that very situation.
IOCP Executive Director LaDonna Hoy says the organization's fundraising goal this year is $1.95 million, enough to help them serve about 1,700 households, which would be the most the organization has raised in the event's 17-year history.
The Sleep Out will officially kick off with a prayer walk, live music and food at Klapprich Park in Wayzata on Saturday and will continue until Dec. 31.
IOCP has been operating for the past 33 years. It provides services to needy families in Hamel, Long Lake, Medicine Lake, Medina, Minnetonka Beach, Orono, Plymouth and Wayzata.
Although the bulk of IOCP's resources go to fighting homelessness and hunger directly, the organization also helps with other factors that can cause a family to feel "upended," Hoy says -- everything from career counseling and computer classes to childcare and transportation.
Hoy says it costs IOCP about $2,300 to help the average family for a year. The organization served 1,676 households last year, up from 1,492 the previous year.
Not only is the Sleep Out IOCP's biggest annual funding drive, it is also designed to raise awareness of poverty in suburban communities.
Although many people assume suburbs are generally free of problems like homelessness and hunger, Hoy says, poverty is on the rise in these communities.
"It's a different world in the suburbs than most people realize, because you don't see it. It isn't as visible," Hoy said.
Many of the families living in poverty in the suburbs don't have access to the resources necessary to improve their situation, Hoy says. This makes the kind of work being done by IOCP even more essential.
Shrewsbury says the Sleep Out serves as a reminder that homelessness is a more widespread problem than most people realize.
"It's not just guys with signs under overpasses," he said. "These are families whose kids may go to school with your kids. It really can happen to any of us."
For more information on the Sleep Out, go to www.iocp.org/sleep-out.
Nick Woltman is a Twin Cities freelance writer.