Reaching out to our homeless neighborsDeb Holman is a one-woman community outreach team who has been working with the homeless since she came to Duluth in 2005.
By: Clara Hatcher, Duluth Budgeteer News
Deb Holman is a one-woman community outreach team who has been working with the homeless since she came to Duluth in 2005.
If you spend time talking to Holman while outside in Duluth you may see more homeless people than you would have seen if you had been alone because you may have not realized they were homeless.
During a Budgeteer interview Holman didn’t even come into the building; instead she talked to people sitting on the street and chatted with a woman that she knew and had been homeless since May 2011.
The county conducted a one-day survey in 2012 and found 182 people in St Louis County living outside under bridges, hidden in city parks, in cars and squatting in abandoned buildings. At that same time shelters were (and still are) at capacity.
Holman has part-time positions with both CHUM and the Human Development Center.
“The premise of my outreach jobs is to meet people where they are on the street, build relationships with them and get them where they need to be, whether it is in rehab or in housing.”
But she can’t do it all on her own.
CHUM, Loaves and Fishes, the Salvation Army, Life House and the Human Development Center are teaming up to create an outreach program to help the homeless citizens of Duluth. Holman said that it was her goal to expand the search and outreach program, making it so that there would be more volunteers spread out across town in areas such as West Duluth and Morgan Park.
How you and your faith community can help
If there were more people to provide outreach, more relationships with the homeless could be made and more help provided for those who need it, Holman said.
“I’ve seen a couple hundred people on the street or off the beaten path at any given time during this past year,” Holman said. “Every year I have to think about how I am going to try to help them. I am always encouraging more people to come help, and I hope that more people will come to help.”
Holman and others created a flyer with these talking point for faith groups:
1. Volunteer with the homeless outreach team
Volunteers are needed to accompany outreach workers on weeknights, making contact with folks living outside and distributing food and gear.
2. Provide bagged lunches
The outreach team distribues 30-40 bagged lunches per day.
3. Donate or collect gear
While permanent housing is the goal, many have an immediate need. Consider donating or sponsoring a drive to collect 2-person tents, tarps, sleeping bags, clean socks, rain gear, DTA fare cards, bug repellent, sunscreen, granola bars, bottle water, personal first aid kits and backpacks.
4. Keep the conversation going
As the late county commissioner and advocate for the homeless Steve O’Neil said, “Homelessness is as wrong and unjust today as it has always been.”
Lee Stuart, executive director of CHUM in Duluth said, “This past year we have had a lot of people get into housing because of the efforts made,” Stuart said. “She (Holman) brings very unstable and vulnerable people into stability and housing. She helps each step of the way to create stable lives.
“People who really need help have a good community to help get them where they need to be,” Stuart said. “However, Deb has been pretty close to solo in outreach work. What we all need is for more people to step up so that we can broaden the outreach and do it in a more coordinated way.”
For more information contact Deb Holman at 218-260-7573 or Joel Kilgour at 218-340-4356. Donations can be delivered any day from 9 a.m to 9 p.m. at the Dorothy Day House located at 1712 Jefferson Street. The phone number is 218-724-2054.