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Homeless for a night

Most high school students study and go to class so they don't end up on the streets. But a group of students at East Ridge High School decided to try experiencing homelessness for one night last month.

More than 150 students slept out on the school's football field for the "Homeless Sleepout" event. The event was organized by the student council.

"We wanted to unify the school by getting the chance to spend the night on turf," student council president Dale Hoeffel said. "We wanted something that everybody would feel like they're contributing back and they're doing something to prove that they care."

During the Homeless Sleepout students, along with their chaperones, constructed their beds out of cardboard boxes donated by a student's father.

The council also set up a soup kitchen where each student had the opportunity to get a little soup and some bread.

For entertainment, the student council showed "The Pursuit of Happyness" on an outdoor screen.

"We're really, really happy that East Ridge wanted to support this," student council advisor Merridith Duellman said.

Hoeffel said the goal of the sleepout was to bring awareness to homelessness and what it's like for people who don't have a permanent home.

"It's taking one night to wear the shoes of a student who doesn't have a home -- you don't get a shower, and you still have to go to school," she said. "One night of a not perfect life will show you how much you should appreciate everything -- looking at what you have compared to what other people have."

East Ridge junior Kaity Forsythe said she decided to participate in the homeless sleepout because it was something different.

"It's just a good experience," she said.

Hoeffel said she hopes the student council can make the Homeless Sleepout an annual tradition for students because it has the ability to open students' eyes to what is happening in the world, but not necessarily in Woodbury.

"We're so blessed to have all of these opportunities in such a safe area of the community, sometimes you're closed off from the real world," she said. "People need to understand that this happens and it's not just a perfect Woodbury life."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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