Saturday night I participated in the 4th annual Reggie's Sleepout...but it was the third time I had done something like it. When I first moved to Des Moines in 2003, the first youth minister to befriend me was Brent. One day, while sharing a cup of coffee, he shared an idea for a joint ministry event called a "Lock Out". This was a counter to the classic youth lock-in, where kids stay up all night playing ridiculous games and drinking too much Mountain Dew. It sounded like a cool idea, so I hopped on board.
On a chilly October night, our group hung out at the homeless youth outreach center, did a simulation of what it's like to buy food on a limited budget, and had a midnight prayer service underneath an interstate overpass where many homeless people sleep in the winter. We slept under the stars or in cardboard boxes in the yard at Brent's church and enjoyed some gloopy pancakes cooked over a propane stove.
Reggie's Sleepout was quite a different experience, but an equally powerful one. Our group experienced the struggles of unpredictable weather, long lines for food, and having to work together in cramped environment with limited resources. We had a good post-Sleepout conversation at the Drake Diner, where I posed the question: "What do we do with the 3,000+ homeless youth in Polk County?" We found no easy answers, but lots of faithful discussion. The awareness raised by our participation in the Sleepout lit a fire within some of our young people.
Here is some more information about this unique event:
- Reggie's Sleepout recap
- An opinion piece featuring local homeless youth, Kaitlin Nelson
- An extended article on Howard Croweagle who works for Youth Shelter Services
- The Reggie's Sleepout Twitter feed
- Official website
Pretty Good Lutherans did a great piece on Reggie's Sleepout
Here are a few pictures I took of the "construction" process.