Duluth connects homeless people with the help they need
The homeless, the precariously housed and the poor often are invisible, ignored and overlooked. On Wednesday, they were very visible at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, the setting for Duluth's second Project Homeless Connect event. Th...
The homeless, the precariously housed and the poor often are invisible, ignored and overlooked.
On Wednesday, they were very visible at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, the setting for Duluth's second Project Homeless Connect event. The event is designed to help the homeless and to increase awareness of the issue in the community.
"This community is really showing the way this work can be done on a local level," said Laura Kadwell, Minnesota director for Ending Long-Term Homelessness, during a news conference preceding the event.
The event was sponsored by a task force born out of a 10-year St. Louis County plan to end homelessness and local businesses, social service agencies, citizens and faith-based groups. During the four-hour event, people could find services and goods such as food, clothing, housing, employment, transportation assistance and medical and mental health care.
By the time the event began at 11 a.m., a queue several people wide stretched from the registration area back past the DECC's doors. The line included whites, blacks and Indians, ranging in age from young adults and a few children to the elderly. People waited by themselves and in couples.
As space permitted, the attendees were brought in and paired with volunteers who would help direct them to the services they needed the most.
"There are a lot of people in need in our community, often because of discrimination and inequality," said volunteer Laura Belanger-Hoffarth, who is working on her masters of social work at the University of Minnesota Duluth. "As a member of this community, it's my duty to help address those issues. I hope the community sees the need and helps out however they can."
There are 400 to 500 homeless people in the Duluth region, St. Louis County Commissioner Steve O'Neil said.
"Close to 40 percent are children," he said.
The trip to homelessness can be a quick and unexpected journey for some.
"There's a lot of reasons there's a lot of us out there," including loss of a job, loss of a loved one, abuse and addiction, said Carolyn Hill, 59. She joined the ranks of the homeless earlier this year after a dispute with her landlord led to evection.
"A person is two seconds away from it (homelessness)," Hill said.
While she since has found another place to live with the help of Churches United in Ministry, Hill said she knows about life on the streets. She spent five years on the streets of Los Angles after an abusive marriage ended after 22 years.
"It's not fair," Hill said. "I didn't ask to lose my job, I
didn't ask to be mistreated by an ex-husband who took everything away from me."
Hill appreciated the help she received and the efforts of the volunteers Wednesday.
"It makes me feed good to know that I finally matter to someone other than God," she said.
Hill said more people need to be aware of the programs that are available to help them, as long as the people are willing to help themselves.
Steve Larson was another person attending Wednesday's event who knows about homelessness. A gambling addiction caused the Vietnam-era veteran to go years without a permanent roof over his head. He lived in his car for months at a time. At other times he found room in a shelter.
Larson hasn't been homeless since receiving help to overcome his addiction about three years ago. He thinks Project Homeless Connect is a good idea.
"It's a good chance for people to come down and see the people they can get help from," he said. "I know I am going to feel better after this."