Vigil and sleep out to call attention to homelessness

When Minneapolis resident Margaret Hastings started working at the shelter at St. Stephen's Catholic Church more than two decades ago, she realized that tackling the problem of homelessness was as much about taking political action as it was about providing social services.

So when she received a call for groups and individuals to hold vigils and sleep outs March 31 as part of a national effort to raise awareness about homelessness, she responded. Now she's encouraging Minneapolis residents and others to join her at 7 p.m. at Martin Luther King Park, 4055 Nicollet Ave. S., for a vigil and sleep out she's organizing.

&#8220I am just doing a simple, quiet, reflective vigil,” Hastings said, adding that she isn't sure how many people will join her. &#8220It might just be me, which is all right as so many of the people experiencing homelessness are out there alone on the streets every night. I should be able to stand in recognition of every one of them for one night.”

The vigil and sleep out will be part of the National Sleep Out organized by national organization To The Streets, a coalition of homeless youth, students, young workers and others.

Hastings will have an electronic candle all night, as well as a poster describing her reason for being there and handouts with additional information.

As a prelude to the March 31 sleep out, Hastings will show the film she directed, &#8220Illegal to be Homeless” March 28 at 7 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Recreation Center. The film is about a half-hour long, and there will be time for discussion and questions about the film and the March 31 vigil and sleep out.