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In the Know column: From homeless to hopeful

In our community, homelessness is increasing and during the winter months in Minnesota, the temperatures outside are unsafe for anyone without shelter.

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Area residents hold signs along Broadway Street to educate the public about homelessness as part of the West Central Minnesota Communities Action's "Cardboard Brigade" on Tuesday, Nov. 16. Travis Gulbrandson / Alexandria Echo Press

By Jen Jabas, director of the United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties

Home is a place of refuge. It's where a person feels safe and accepted. In a home there is an emotional connection and a sense of belonging.

Hope is the desire for something to happen with a belief that it is possible. Hope is when a person believes their life situation will improve.

We can provide both. There are people in our community who have no place they can call home. People who don’t have a place to stay when faced with hardship. People who don’t have family to help out during a transition. People who need our help.

In our community, homelessness is increasing and during the winter months in Minnesota, the temperatures outside are unsafe for anyone without shelter. In an effort to meet this increasing need, United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties in partnership with West Central Minnesota Communities Action along with local churches and community partners are offering a pilot program called Homeless to Hopeful. This program will provide an additional resource to the many great programs offered by WCMCA and other local non-profits.

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Each night from January through March of this winter, local churches will provide temporary shelter for individuals without homes. Check in will be staffed by WCMCA Case Managers and church volunteers.

Guests will be provided with a bag to store their personal belongings, a personal care kit, a cot and bedding along with meals during their stay. Volunteers from the church will provide dinner and share in conversation with guests each night and stay until check out in the morning. Breakfast will be served by volunteers each morning and a sack lunch provided as each guest checks out for the day.

Guests will work with WCMCA to achieve permanent stable housing during their stay with Homeless to Hopeful. United Way and WCMCA along with other community partners will provide resources and referrals to include wrap around services with agencies who provide food, employment opportunities, and other community services.

We can ensure that each individual in this program is welcome and leaves filled with hope!

When I get to the end of my day, my home is what I look forward to going to. It is where I can relax and share a meal with my family. It is the place I feel safe and can rest before another day begins.

I can’t imagine how I could begin each new day without a place to sleep and how I could get through each day with the constant worry about where I would sleep that night. We can provide a temporary home for those who are without. We can offer not only a place to sleep but also share in a meal and provide a safe place where every person feels welcome.

We can be family to another by showing love and kindness to someone during their time of need. We can create possibilities and inspire hope by providing shelter and resources for individuals as they seek permanent housing.

Ways to help include:

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  • Become a host church

  • Contact United Way to find out how to volunteer or donate items

  • Or make a financial contribution to the program to ensure success!

There are a variety of resources for individuals who are homeless. In order to determine if this or another program is the right fit, individuals experiencing homelessness should contact WCMCA at 320-304-3458.
United Way fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person. This program is successful due to the partnerships with so many churches, agencies and local residents. No one of us can do this alone, and we couldn’t be more thankful for each of you!

For more information, contact United Way at (320)834-7800 or e-mail Jen Jabas at jjabas@uwdp.org

Jen Jabas is the director of the United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties. “In the Know” is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.

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