The pandemic is upon us. Try as we might, Homeless Helping Homeless is having difficulty keeping up with this ever-escalating crisis. Although we have read the Wilder Reports regarding the depth of our local affordable housing deficit, it took a pandemic to transform those abstract numbers into a visible visceral cacophony of misery and suffering.
Our hearts ache with compassion for our hard-working neighbors employed by the chicken and meat processing industries here. Not only are they afflicted by this dread disease, but they have been sent home to quarantine with their families. Some uninsured, these hard workers are unsure if they can go to the hospital. They fear infecting their loved ones and are worried about how they will pay their bills if their paychecks cease. Some are not eligible for food assistance and by the end of the month, hunger will be even more of an issue in our community. Many formerly employed will be faced with the reality of homelessness as their limited funds are used up.
Everyone in town was aware of the 60 or so street people panhandling on the corners. When the virus threatened us, we responded as we should have by energizing all sectors of our community to protect the most vulnerable among us and the motel housing program was instituted. With the combined efforts of organizations and government we anticipated that 60 beds would be enough to meet our needs.
Then people began flowing into the streets from the downsizing of shelters and jails.
That was followed by folks leaving couches and basements of their friends due to fear of hosts catching COVID-19 from their guests.
A third wave of people joined their fellows outside when they were laid off or had hours cut due to the slowdown and closure of many businesses.
Now even more are in danger of being cast outside, as people with no safety net are becoming ill and cannot work.
What has become painfully apparent is that Saint Cloud does not have enough housing for our people. Each day we are dumbfounded by the number of young couples with little kids coming to us for help. We listen to their heart wrenching stories of desperation. Today we had a young pregnant couple who were staying with friends who could not afford to support them after they had lost their jobs. The two of them moved into their truck and lived there for a week. Then the truck was repossessed. For the last two nights they slept outside on a couch behind Savers. Tonight, we will scrape up enough funds to put them in a motel for the night, hoping that enough donations come in tomorrow to pay for a longer stay.
Including the young pregnant couple, we now have 82 people housed in motels, and yet our waiting list has grown to 117.
MANY NEIGHBORS ARE ALREADY HELPING
The Place of Hope has worked hard to provide the 550 meals needed to feed them. 140 additional meals were provided compliments of Neighbors to Friends, Catholic Workers and Kwik Trip. Salvation Army provides bag lunches for motel residents as does the district. Breakfast and laundry money are distributed compliments of Neighbors to Friends.
The community has been generously assisting us with this monumental task. Bethlehem Lutheran has donated funds, meals, toys, clothes and lots of volunteers and organizers, First United Methodist of Sartell provided funds, meals, and volunteers, the Benedictine Sisters in St. Joe donated clothing, Saint Michaels provided volunteers as did Catholic Charities and Catholic Workers. We received six beds from Callan’s Furniture. Donations came in from Atonement Lutheran and KC Council 12822. We also received donations of clothing, games, face masks and money from other caring friends in the community last week. The support is deeply appreciated by our petrified friends on the street.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
We expect to add two more motels this coming week as the current ones are full. That will add about 40 beds if we can procure funding. Every little bit helps – $20 provides a bed for someone for one night.
We can use drink boxes and snack sized potato chips for the motels and Lake George.
Young strong volunteers for delivering meals to the motels are also welcome.
Donations can be sent to mailed or made through our website:
Homeless Helping Homeless
PO Box 475
Saint Cloud 56302
Contact us to make a delivery at:
Phones 612-868-0465 or 320-309-2952
We are all called by God to love, care, and support one another, especially in times like this.
We treasure each of you,
Harry, Mary, and Troy
Homeless Helping Homeless