A recent St. Cloud Times article highlighted the difficulty in determining how many homeless there are in Central Minnesota. Local experts found a January 23, 2013 survey underestimated the prevalence in our area. No matter the exact number of homeless, it’s too many.
Two local events, “Project Homeless Connect” and “Empty Bowls Soup Feed Benefit and Silent Auction,” seek to address some of the needs of those experiencing homelessness.
For a third straight year, Project Homeless Connect will bring together people who are homeless with community agencies that can help them meet their immediate needs and provide them with basic services. On March 20, people who are homeless can go to the St. Cloud Public Library, 1300 W St Germain St., from 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. and get a free meal, haircut, and basic health screening – no reservations required.
There will be advocates on hand to meet and guide attendees and assist them with filling out an application to better target the services they need. Advocates can also help attendees to get to select booths, if needed.
Tri-CAP’s Family Resources coordinator, Cheri Klassen, directs the annual event. Klassen said the number of people served grew from 72 people the first year to more than 200 last year. Organizers expect around 300 attendees this year. “We’re planning on serving 300 people, but if more show up, we will find a way to make sure they get a meal and services,” said Klassen.
She said the event provides benefits to all who participate, and praised the efforts of this year’s organizers. She said they really stepped up to the plate to help out. “We’re even getting unsolicited donations from people who see the event advertised and just want to help out,” she added.
Klassen said she enjoys working on this event. “My passion is helping people and getting them the services they need,” she said, “this event is needed and provides a real service to the community.”
Last year, the people providing health screenings discovered one of the attendees had diabetes. They were able to him set up with his doctor for treatment. ”They might have saved his life,” said Klassen.
Some of the local agencies involved in the 2013 Project Homeless Connect include:
• Stearns County Human Services
• Benton County Human Services
• Catholic Charities
• Salvation Army
• RISE, Inc.
• St. Cloud State University Social Work Department
• Project Heal
• Tri-County Action Program, Inc. (Tri-CAP)
For those who want to donate to the event, Project Homeless Connect is accepting new items only and cash. Contact Klassen at (320) 257-4533 to donate or for more information about the event.
The other local event scheduled to help those who are homeless, Empty Bowls Soup Feed Benefit and Silent Auction, will be held on March 24. The event will be from noon-4 p.m. at Calvary Community Church, 1200 Roosevelt Road, St. Cloud.
Cost is $10.00 for an individual or $30.00 per family to receive a handmade bowl, soup donated by a St. Cloud restaurant, bread and a beverage. Entertainment also will be provided.
Attendees keep their “benefactor bowls” after the event as a reminder that someone else’s bowl is always empty. Proceeds benefit Place of Hope, which provides food and services for people experiencing homelessness, hunger and despair.
Tickets are available at the door, Calvary Community Church, Place of Hope, and Christian Book Store. For more information, call (320) 203-7881.