PALMER — Family Promise Mat-Su is restructuring their Cardboard City into a CARdboard City Friday at the Alaska State Fairgrounds, marking their first community-wide collaboration with local nonprofits.

They will work together with the attending community to raise awareness for the Valley’s homeless and raise funds to support proactive action for that population.

“We’re all in this together… We’re all fighting homelessness,” Family Promise Mat-Su board member Gini King-Taylor said.

The public is invited once again to stay the night on the fairground’s grassy knolls, sleeping in a cardboard box or a vehicle, symbolizing the substandard dwellings and ongoing struggles of hundreds of homeless individuals and families across the Valley.

“Our main goal is to stamp out homelessness in the Valley. I hope more people know about Family Promise and they step up volunteer and help the homeless. Because, they are decent people who’ve fallen on hard times,” King-Taylor said.

This event draws in newcomers each year along with many committed regulars such as MyHouse Vice Chairman Michael Carson who stays in his car every year, according to King-Taylor. MyHouse and other participating organizations will take time to gather everyone for speaker presentations to talk about the homeless situation in the Valley and how to tackle it.

There will be live, local music playing as people set up their boxes and sites. There will also be door prizes, children activities, a bread and soup line, and a “bedtime story” before lights out. Numerous businesses from across the Valley pitched in to donate food, prizes and other resources for this event. There will also be coffee and doughnuts the morning after.

King-Taylor said that people have a lot of fun decorating their boxes, especially the children. She said that people spend a lot of time constructing their domiciles. She’s seen many castles and creative ways to have fun while raising awareness for the homeless.

“It’s a fun evening. Everybody has fun,” King-Taylor said.

This is Family Promise’s 12th annual sleep-out event. Up until now, they ran this event alone. King-Taylor said that “widening the net” to include MyHouse, Alaska Family Services Women’s Shelter, Wasilla Homeless Committee and Blood and Fire/Knik House will strengthen their cause, not just for this event.

King-Taylor said that each of those organizations serves the homeless. They all serve with the Mat-Su Coalition on Housing and Homelessness. They meet at local, statewide and national training conferences. Throughout the year, they share resources, referrals and support with each other.

King-Taylor said that Family Promise has helped thousands over the years. She hears countless stories of people that say their “lives would be shattered” without them. She said that the clients are thankful for their help and the public is behind them.

“There’s so many stories like that… People see Family Promise as a safety net to continue,” King-Taylor said.

The event starts Friday at 5 p.m., and those attending are asked to park and enter through the Green Gate. Registration costs $50 and is available online or at the gate. Boxes are provided, but people are free to bring their own.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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