How does the Covid-19 protective motel sheltering work? Has it been effective? Where to we go from here? We have shared a lot about the difficulties our friends on the street face daily and how everything has only gotten worse since the pandemic started Food, clothing, shelter, social services, and health care are increasingly more difficult to secure, especially for those still struggling to survive outside. But thanks to all of you, life is a lot less stressful for those you have enabled to gain shelter in the motels. No longer do these neighbors have to wander the streets dirty, searching for a place to wash hands, shower, eat, or lay their heads. We now have 119 individuals sheltering in motels 19 of them are children. In order to protect the most vulnerable, those with underlying health conditions, families, pregnant women and the elderly were given a higher priority. Most of those housed are from the Saint Cloud Area. Some from the small towns and rural counties surrounding us. Not too many are coming from the Twin Cities because they have massive motel programs there. We were somewhat taken aback and were wondering where all these people were coming from until we realized that they were here all along, just out of sight. They were sleeping on the couches of friends, in the woods, in cars, and in parking ramps. Now that so many are in the motels, they are suddenly visible.
Finding a place for our friends, and feeding them has been a lot of work, but here is where we get to brag about our community. The Place of Hope has cooked and packed 1,365 evening meals over the past two weeks at no charge. Individual volunteers joined those from Bethlehem Lutheran, First United Methodist, Joy Christian Center, Saint Michaels, and Prepper Pals to distribute all these meals to three motels in Saint Cloud. Neighbors to Friends, along with the Salvation Army, Quality Inn, and the school district provide breakfast and lunch.
This week our fourth motel started housing folks in Saint Joseph and right away the Catholic Workers of Central Minnesota sprang into action by providing breakfasts and lunches for the 21 people staying there. The evening meals are being provided by St. John’s University, St. Ben’s
Monastery, and the Church of Saint Joseph in Saint Joseph.
It is not only those experiencing homelessness that are benefiting from this program but the entire community. The program appears to be effectively controlling the spread of the pandemic among those staying in the motels. If any should become sick, they can readily be identified and easily isolated. If they were all still on the streets, it would be nearly impossible find those who are ill and difficult to quarantine them.
To accomplish providing 1,465 nights in motels takes great effort and a lot of money. In addition to the funds provided through the city allocating $24,000 per month of CDBG-CV funds for this purpose, numerous organizations and individuals have contributed both financially and in-kind to this effort. Bethlehem Lutheran has donated games, puzzles, potato chips, kool-aid, masks, their quilters group donated $900. Saint Paul’s Catholic Church has donated $100 as has First United Methodist in Sartell and has its people busily seeking grants and donations from businesses in the area. Atonement Lutheran has contributed $300. Cash donations from generous individuals amounted to $3,301 this past two weeks. The United Way awarded us a $5,000 grant.
Along with the Motel program HHH in conjunction with Neighbors to Friends, Catholic Workers, and Catholic Charities provides a free hot meal at Lake George every day at 2:00. we gave out 241 meals this period. Three sleeping bags, 6 gas cards, 4 mats, 10 sets of clothes were distributed by Troy. Pranil and his crew have been working hard on the website which has generated over $1,000 in donations.
Where do we go from here? There are still 108 desperate persons on the waiting list that long to join the others in a safe hygienic place. We have about a dozen folks whose afflictions have prevented them from staying in the motels, we need a place suitable for them. Again, kudos to the city council for supporting the River Heights project that will provide a place for adults experiencing homelessness. Having folks in the motels also provides service agencies the opportunity to inform folks of available resources and communicate by phone with those who seldom can.
One thing that the pandemic has taught us is that we desperately need more affordable housing in Saint Cloud. To have the number of families and young couples that cannot afford their own place pouring onto the streets in the middle of an epidemic is not acceptable We have proved to ourselves that we have the determination and ingenuity to address even the most serious of issues in an effective, and expedient way. We cut the red tape, rolled up our sleeves and tackled the challenge. When this virus dies down, lets get to the root of this homeless problem and solve it. The rest of the country is waiting to learn from us.
We can use a few more volunteers. The number of meals we are now delivering is too large for one team to handle We are building a second team.
Donations can be sent to:
Homeless Helping Homeless
PO Box 475
Saint Cloud 56302
Or contact us to make a delivery at:
Phones 612-868-0465 or 320-309-2952
You are a blessing God has given us, Harry, Mary, and Troy