ON THE STREET (November 30, 2020)

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of discouragement, disasters, disease and promise.  How can so much happen in so short a time.  The weather switching from cold, and snowy to warm and sunny and back to cold again, created great difficulties for those in the camp.  The snow caused everything to get wet, the warmth turned the path to mud.  People had to deal with how to keep warm, then how to dry things out.  Clean up became difficult, competition for resources and warmth caused friction.  Then the city decided that the camp posed a health hazard and scheduled it to be closed.  This was a terrible disappointment to those in the camp who had spent so much time and energy insulating their tents and preparing them for winter.  But this time, to the city’s credit, the camp was closed with dignity.  There was no “move out now because here come the bulldozers,” kind of removal.  Instead campers were given a two week notice to find somewhere else and move their stuff.  The police, city, county, social service agencies, Neighbors to Friends and HHH all scrambled to relocate folks to somewhere where they could stay warm.  Some went to motels, some to treatment, some to friends, some to the new warming center and some just went to a new location.

Then Covid hit again, closing the gym where folks were getting free showers, and restaurants that were beginning to hire folks and provided a place to warm up.  A lot of providers had to pull back because of the risk of exposure to or contact with Covid positive friends or workmates. The prospects of a return to normal were dashed, and life on the street became more difficult again.

As some of you may know, many of our families experiencing homelessness have been sheltered in the Days Inn.  On Saturday the 21st at 4:30 AM an electrical fire broke out in the motel.  It sent smoke into the halls, causing fire alarms to sound, lights to go out.  Kids in pajamas and shirtless adult sleepers raced out into the cold.  The fire department hosed water on the flames, ceilings crashed onto people’s belongings.  In all four rooms were destroyed and 28 rooms had to be evacuated because of the smoke.  We got there early in the morning and provided blankets and clothing.  Many folks were not allowed back into their rooms due to the hazardous conditions and those that could, had to go in with a firefighter to grab their most valuable possessions quickly and go.  Place of Hope was also soon on the scene with a warming bus and snacks.  Savers offered a huge discount to those needing clothes.  Everything smelled of smoke.  No one was harmed and Days Inn staff did a good job of keeping folks calm.  Most of the residents were able to relocate into undamaged rooms in the motel.

On the more promising side, and thanks to all of you, the warming center at the Lincoln Avenue site was able to open.  The city approved the site, we hired staff, and we were able to pay the rent and get it up and running.  Two days before it opened we encountered a fellow who was unable to get in the Salvation Army because it was full.  I had extra sandwiches from the Eastside food distribution site and I offered them to him.  I asked him where he was sleeping that night he said in an ice cooler (the type they store bagged ice in to sell) that was abandoned.  How fortunate we are that folks like you and our volunteers have now provided another alternative to individuals like him in the event Salvation Army and the Place of Hope are full.  We have contracted with Next Step Transitional Services to assist us with setup, hiring, screening, training and to provide nursing and case management services to our guests.  We would love to show it off to you but due to Covid and client privacy ask that you wait for  photos and not just drop by.   

The city has also approved a combination clinic-warming center that will open later this year in the Michael’s Café building.  It will be managed by Next Step.  The Lincoln site is managed by HHH.  Hopefully, these two additional shelter options will greatly reduce the loss of life and limb from the cold this winter for the folks forced to live on the street.

We at HHH have much to be thankful for this year.  We have received grants to provide motel rooms and food.  Place of Hope, Catholic Charities, Neighbors to Friends and dozens of volunteers also help us to distribute meals to about 137 folks in motels and another 100 on the street.  Many churches and the Knights of Columbus Ladies Auxiliary provide folks with coats and warm winter wear.   The City and Police Department are pitching in to secure grants and direct folks stranded in the cold to area shelters, motels and warming centers.  And neighbors like you have shown your willingness to contribute funding even in these hard times to enable our friends to stay warm.

The citizens of St. Cloud have shown that when we work together we can confront and overcome the serious challenges confronting us.  We have come a long way in our quest to help folks escape life on the streets.  The unsheltered in out community now have options to move from the street and encampments to warming centers and shelters to transitional housing.  Next we have to break down the barriers preventing folks from getting to have jobs and permanent housing.

We see the city is already working on it.   The city council study group focus this week is on affordable housing.  A major employer is in discussions with their personnel department about how to overcome the barriers standing in the way of providing a job for those without an address or phone.  Other business people are offering to assist those without jobs in starting their own businesses.  The creative determination to release the talents of everyone in our town is what makes us proud to be a part of this community.

Your humble servants,

Harry, Mary and Troy

Send donations to:     Homeless Helping Homeless

                                   PO Box 475

                                   St. Cloud, MN 56302

                                   homelesshelpinghomeless.org

Unsheltered–Facing Winter Crisis

We know we haven’t updated “On-The-Street” for quite some time and we want to apologize. Many, many of you have continued to assist us with delivering meals and donating clothes and camping supplies for our friends outside and in motels. Thank you all for that. There have been so many of you that have contributed time, talent, funds, and goods. We plan to send a separate thank you “On-The-Street” in order to recognize you.

Many things have happened since the last update. The state funding that was paying for 48 of our 75 rooms ran out and we did not qualify for the new grant due to a lack of case management capability. Tri-Cap has stepped up to take on that portion of the program. The city has continued funding 20 of the remaining rooms and we are working with Benton County and Catholic Charities to provide social services to residents of America’s Best Value Inn under our program. An encampment has been established by folks experiencing homelessness and currently has around 16 tents. The city has agreed not to expel anyone unless an individual creates a health hazard. We commend the city for this. Catholic Charities, the Police Department, Park Department, CentraCare, Neighbors to Friends, Central MN Catholic Workers, multiple organizations, churches, and all of you, continue contributing to meet the basic needs of the unsheltered folks in our city. Thank you.

However, as we abruptly discovered two weeks ago, winter is coming. We learned from last year the devastating consequences that the brutal cold has on those lodging outside. Even during this brief cold snap, we have had two confirmed cases of frostbite and one case of hypothermia requiring hospitalization. Five toes have already been lost. Outside is not fun, it is an unforgivingly brutal exercise in survival.

St. Cloud is fortunate to have three shelters. Each of them works hard to provide a warm alternative for those without a place to stay. Last year two of them, Place of Hope and Salvation Army agreed to provide warming centers open to all when the wind chill reached 32 degrees or below. However, this year space is more limited because Covid has hit and forced us into social distancing. Last year we also used motels to shelter folks during the coldest weather. Motels are expensive, and the motel provided by the CDBG grant is at capacity. We do not feel right sending current motel occupants out into the cold to make room for those outside we want to bring in. It should be noted, motel properties are not low barrier, some of them won’t take many of our neighbors who are most afflicted by mental illness, chemical dependency and behavioral issues who lack ID’s or are on “do not rent” lists. These are the folks most likely to succumb to the ravages of winter.

Because of this, we are partnering with the NAACP to provide a new no barrier day and night warming center that will operate for the next six months. It will provide an additional option for those outside who are unable to access the other two warming centers at Place of Hope and
Salvation Army. We are asking you to support us in this effort. As you have supported our other efforts to make life a little better for those unsheltered in the past. A suitable building has been located, potential staff identified, beds, and social distancing dividers have been acquired. Now, the only barrier to becoming operational is funding. Rent and utilities come to approximately $3,000 a month. Added funding will be needed to compensate the night staff.

If grants can be found, applied for, and awarded, it will not happen before the cold weather returns.  Your help is desperately needed.  Daytime volunteers and money for rent, utilities and night staff person are urgently needed now.  Once these funds become available it would be possible to open in less than two weeks.  Can you help keep folks safe and warm this winter?  Those in the encampment and outside can only endure it for so long.  Then they will start to experience serious life-threatening health issues.  The colder it gets the more desperate this situation becomes.  It becomes a monumental task to just stay alive.  It is essential to get the warming center up and running as soon as possible.

The people, organizations and churches of St. Cloud have always been such an inspiration to us.  We were recently asked what motivates us.  The answer is our faith and our community.  It is you who motivate us.  You can always be counted on to step up to the challenge of confronting whatever crisis our community encounters with an expedient and determined effort to do what is best for our hometown and all its residents.

Your humble servants,

Harry, Mary and Troy

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

Email: hfleegel@aol.com

Website: homelesshelpinghomeless.org

Motel Funding Crisis (July 3, 2020)

We have just been informed that due to a change in procedure the CDBG-CV funds we had been hoping to be allocated on at the July 6 th city council meeting, will not be on the agenda until their July 20 th meeting. This has created a huge funding crisis because the 20 rooms that were paid for with that grant are only paid until the 8 th . As you know we operate pretty much hand to mouth and give everything to those in need as fast as we can. As a result, we do not have sufficient funds to cover the gap between the 8th and the 20th . If we are unable to come up with the motel charges by the 8th, we will have to begin putting vulnerable people back out on the street.

We know all of you have been super generous in the past, and it has proven to all, the character and empathy of the folks in the Saint Cloud community. However, this development has placed us in an exceedingly difficult situation, and we are going to need your prayers, ideas, any financial help you can give us. We do not want to expel these 25 friends from the only place of refuge they have. As far as we know there are scant places other than tents for them to move to. We need to raise about $12,000 in just a few days. The United Way has already agreed to help us out but cannot cover the whole amount. Matt Glaesman from the city has contacted Stearns County to see what they can do, and we are contacting you. We are hoping that between all of us, we can prevent what would be a definite catastrophe for some of our most desperate neighbors.

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
Email: hfleegel@aol.com
Website: homelesshelpinghomeless.org

May your heart guide you in your decision,
Harry, Mary, and Troy

Where are We at? What’s Next? (June 1-14, 2020)

This week we are going to review the status of three groups of people in our community that we are all concerned about. The first are those folks now living in motels, thanks to all of you. The second group are those still on the streets and the third are those in danger of becoming homeless.

Motels:
There are currently 146 people including 31 children being housed by HHH in seven area motels. New additions this past two weeks include a 40 year old with a broken shoulder, a single dad and his two year old son, a referral by a mental health provider, a mom with four kids, a couple in their late fifties one of which is suffering a severe kidney infection, a victim of domestic abuse with two preschoolers. Another mother with two children was put into a room after an eviction, a woman working in a chain store was paying her own way in a motel but ran out of money, a widow lost her home due to foreclosure, two pregnant couples, a chronically homeless fellow, an elderly woman with serious physical and mental health issues were all provided a place to stay thanks to all of your efforts. Not only did these folks get a motel room but were provided with meals through the generosity of (The Place of Hope 1,550 meals) , (Central Mn Catholic Workers, St Benedicts Monastery, St Joseph’s Church in St. Joe ,514 meals (Neighbors to Friends 238 meals),Salvation Army, and YES. These meals were prepared and delivered by an army of over 40 volunteers who also provided clothing, games and reading material.

For the most part, motel guests are settling in nicely. While some have had difficulties with their afflictions, and depression, others had trouble maintaining a personal relationship with their counselors, still others are using their time to plan for a better future. Four motel residents have found apartments with two more expected to join them before the end of the month. This is partly due to your generous contributions that helped them pay for deposits, get jobs and save for their first month’s rent. County housing workers also assisted them in this effort. Catholic Charities has been providing outreach services to most of our residents connecting them to resources that will enable them to receive EBT and IDs and a multitude of other benefits. This has been a weak spot in the program since many agencies have been operating remotely. HHH has only received grants to get people off the streets and into a place where they can be protected from the virus and maintain hygiene. In this regard it has been a huge success, to our knowledge, no resident of our motels has tested positive for the virus, yet. No funds were provided for other services, except security, even food, but thanks to you they are being fed .We are hoping that as things start opening up again, that the social service agencies will be freed back into the community that so desperately needs them before clients become dispersed again. Many guests are also eager to get back to work and we hope that employers and agencies that provide access to jobs finds this nugget of eager workers soon. We expect the motel program to last up to sixty days after the end of the peacetime emergency declared by the governor.

On the Street
Things here have not been so rosy. Lack of access to food and hygiene has taken its toll. Depression, chemical abuse, domestic violence has increased as resources have become scarcer. As people become more desperate to find a place to sleep, food to eat, and places to wash up, abuse increases. If you are starving the temptation to get whatever you can from whomever intensifies. Sadly, the victims of this desperation are too often other folks experiencing homelessness or one’s own family. Dumpster diving for sale-able valuables or even food is now common. Sending some to the hospital with food poisoning. Ambushing of food shelf recipients in order to steal their rations is happening. Frustrations often leads to fighting and arguing and abuse. The sense of hopelessness exacerbates psychological trauma. Chemical addiction can seem like the only way to get relief. Many in our community are working to alleviate some of this suffering. The food shelves are doing what they can as are those organizations distributing food bags to those in need. You who have donated time and money to the Lake George hot meal program sponsored by, HHH, Neighbors to Friends and Catholic Workers have provided over 420 meals the past two weeks, thank you. You have also assisted one person who was unsheltered, not in a motel, to get into an apartment.

The End of the Eviction Moratorium
The success of the motel program, and the overwhelming outpouring of help from all sectors of our city has shown that we can rise to any challenge. The unexpected demand for motel rooms we have experienced has demonstrated the critical need for affordable housing in our city. Every effort should be made to encourage any and every innovative idea to address these issues soon. This is especially true because the crisis of homelessness is about to become much worse. As part of the enactment of the peacetime emergency landlords were forbidden from evicting people behind on their rent. When so many folks in low paying jobs were laid off, they soon fell behind in their rental payments, now some are two or three months behind. While a few are being re-hired many are so far behind that they will be unable to pay the huge lump sum that will be needed to prevent eviction or foreclosure when the moratorium ends. These multitudes of newly evicted will join the hundreds we already have on the streets not for a short time while they get on their feet, but for as long as seven years. Evictions go on a person’s rental history and credit report. Banks and landlords use these records to determine whether to rent or provide a mortgage for a new home. If an individual cannot buy a house or rent an apartment because they have an eviction on their record, they have no place to live. They are now officially homeless, for seven years. The time has come to join together and creatively figure out how to prevent this catastrophe that has the potential to effect so much anguish and agony on so many of our friends and neighbors. We need to stop these evictions from happening. It can be done by law, but it is better if we stop them through a mutual collaboration between individuals and their landlords, with the support of churches, agencies, governments, charitable organizations and businesses. This can be done. You helped us figure out how to protect and feed hundreds of our neighbors experiencing homelessness, protecting them from a vicious pandemic. Let us somehow figure out how to help those who through no fault of their own, lost their jobs, and now face eviction, from falling into this pit-hole of perpetual poverty and pain.

A big virtual hug and a thank you to those who have contributed since our last bulletin. The Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, St Paul’s Church $205, Bad Hat Digital $300, The Order of Saint Benedict St. Johns Abbey $1,000, First United Methodist $300, other generous individuals $2,300.

We can use tents, sleeping bags, back packs, bug spray, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, $10 gas cards.

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
Email: hfleegel@aol.com
Website: homelesshelpinghomeless.org

Take time to find the good in everyone you meet. -Harry, Mary, and Troy

We Are All Family (May 25-31, 2020)

The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis this past week exposed the stark reality of life that many of our neighbors must endure daily. Discrimination, poverty, hate, anger, fear, frustration, a sense of powerlessness, all run rampant when we fail to care for one another. Even though our city has thus far been spared the riots and looting experienced in the Cities, we are hardly free of the insidious hate and fear of those we perceive to be different from us. Hate begets hate, repression fuels rebellion.

To our credit, many of our citizen brothers and sisters are striving to reach out in compassion and empathy in order to bring our communal family together. The hundreds who came together to grieve the loss of a member of our extended family at Lake George, brought flowers, not bricks. From what we have observed from their interaction with our homeless our police force is a far cry from what we witnessed on TV. We have seen restraint, compassion, empathy and caring as officers have faced complicated situations involving potentially volatile interactions between mentally challenged, chemically impaired, or emotionally overcharged individuals of all races and backgrounds. For the most part they have treated folks with dignity and worked hard to exercise restraint.

We have seen the huge response amongst our community siblings in support of our cousins experiencing homelessness, in time, in effort and in money. This has been especially true since the onslaught of the pandemic. The agony of the unsheltered has intensified as the social services upon which they depend has had to socially distance. The chemically dependent no longer have easy access to their AA or NA support groups. Those with illnesses requiring medications, or counseling no longer have the reminders and pats on the back that provided an incentive to continue with their medication regimen. Those seeking food, an apartment, clothing a place to clean up have faced ever mounting obstacles. The grants provided by the government and donations from individuals has enabled us to thankfully provide food, shelter, hygiene, rest and phones to the unsheltered. But still more must be done. We need to take advantage of this opportunity to connect members of our family who are in distress with the opportunities this community has to offer. Folks need to be connected to providers of jobs and housing, healthcare, and social services, so that they may come out of the motels with the tools that they need to re-enter society as fully independent and motivated contributors. This is the challenge we all face as members of this Saint Cloud family.

The events in the Twin Cities metro area has touched us all. One member of our Saint Cloud family that is currently sheltered in one of our hotels, is a long-time member of our community. She is a grandmother with a 20 year old son. He and his young family resided in an apartment above a liquor store in Minneapolis. The fires from the riots destroyed that store, his apartment, all their possessions, and severely burned his two-year-old son. The boy is now in the burn unit of Children’s Hospital. You are helping to assist this family.

Last week one of our motel residents died of natural causes while on an errand. He had been living in a car in the Walmart parking lot until you helped provide the funds to place him in a motel. Although we were distressed by his passing, and were haunted by thoughts of what possibly could have been done to prevent this, we were comforted by the knowledge that you provided him with a clean comfortable place to spend the four last days of his life. Thank you!

This week you also enabled a man living on oxygen and his caretaker daughter to find refuge after their life savings ran out and they had no place to go. A person with neuropathy so bad he could hardly walk, a blind person, someone still suffering from frostbitten feet, an elderly fellow with severe backaches, and two young families , one with a four year old and one with a 5 month old, all were able to be placed in motels and fed because of you. Thank you for taking care of our family.

Thanks to all of you who have donated food, clothing masks, (sleeping bags and tents from the Newman Center crowd) diapers, furniture and $3,675 in funding this past week. Thanks to First United Methodist Church, Saint Michael’s for donations of $500 each, and the Nori and Bob Mahowald fund of the Central Minnesota Community Foundation for their gift of $250. We especially want to thank Pastor Carol from the Place of Hope and her hard working cooks and helpers who provided 765 meals this week The Catholic Workers, of Central MN , Neighbors to Friends, St John’s University , St Ben’s Monastery, St Joseph’s Church in St. Joe, the Salvation Army and the St. Cloud School District for providing 609 breakfasts, lunches, and suppers at our motel in St. Joe, 230 lunches at Lake George, and hundreds of breakfasts, lunches and laundry money at our St Cloud motels. And we cannot forget to acknowledge the immense contributions of all our volunteers from organizations and churches throughout the city who fed and cared for 147 of our brothers and sisters including 32 of their children amounting to 1015 stays this past week .Thank you all for caring for our family.

We are in need of: tents, sleeping bags, tarps, and gas cards.

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
Email: hfleegel@aol.com
Website: homelesshelpinghomeless.org

Your brothers and sister,
Harry, Mary, and Troy

A Community in Action (May 18-24, 2020)

As the virus and the economic consequences of it continues in their twin assaults on our community, and the poorest among us are thrust into ever more desperate situations in increasing numbers. One can easily become disheartened. After all the effort, money, and time expended, the HHH waiting list continues to hover at 128 people. Are we having any effect at all When we entertain such thoughts and trepidations, listening to our friends on the street quickly sets us straight ,the commitment of our community continues to strengthen our resolve, the determination of our faith groups to pour on the prayers, their never-ending works of mercy and miracles, blesses us with new resolve.

This week a pregnant woman sleeping between a building and a dumpster was sheltered. A couple living in a truck with a five-month baby girl can now bathe and care for her. A woman with four children sleeping in a broken-down car that only runs a few minutes at a time now can lay them down in a warm bed. The father of three teenage girls fearing for their safety can sleep in peace. A single fellow living in a state park who was going to work exhausted, is now rested. A guy in his sixties out of money with no place to go that would take both him and his dog, now can live indoors with his best friend. You have assisted a disabled veteran by extending his stay in a motel when his money ran out. A nursing mother was allowed to join her family. Two men who have experienced long term homelessness were given a reprieve. A couple living in the woods that were evicted by the landowner have been relocated. A fellow whose afflictions prevent him from doing well in a motel requested and was given a tent. The tears and pleas of these folks have been replaced by gratitude and a sense of hope. Thanks to all of you, the caring supportive people in the Saint Cloud area.

Look what you have accomplished this week. You provided 843 motel stays to 133 people including 23 children are now living in five motels. You have assisted in securing funding through the CDBG-CV grant our city reallocated, the COVID-19 Emergency Response Funds grant, grants from the Campaign for Human Development, the United Way, and the Central MN Community Foundation. You also donated $5,814 in individually donations. $300 from First Presbyterian Church was also received this week.

The people in motels are being fed by you three times a day. Place of Hope provided 696 evening meals this week Central Minnesota Catholic Workers, St John’s University, Saint Benedict’s Monastery, and St Joseph’s Church in Saint Joseph provided 375 meals to those in a motel we are using in St. Joseph. Lunches and breakfasts in Saint Cloud were provided by the Salvation Army, the school district, Neighbors to Friends and the Quality Inn. The following churches and community groups provided volunteers to deliver all these meals, First United Methodist in Sartell, Bethlehem Lutheran ,Joy Christian Center, St Joseph’s in St. Joe, the Newman Center, St Cloud Prepper Pals, St. Michael’s, St John’s Episcopal, Baha’i Faith of Central MN, Neighbors to Friends, Central MN Catholic Workers and many individuals. Talk about a Community coming together to meet a Challenge.

In addition to the motels 177 hot meals were served at Lake George. They were provided by HHH, Neighbors to Friends, Catholic Workers and Kwik Trip. Sleeping bags, mats, tents, gas cards, clothing, bus tickets, games, toys, teddy bears, and toiletries were provided to those in need. Neighbors to Friends and Catholic Workers provided hundreds of dollars in laundry
money.

If you could see the faces of those who have received motel accommodations, if you would compare their current condition with that prior to their entry, feel their reduction in stress , sense the relief from fear it would be evident that your efforts are having a tremendous effect. How dare we become disheartened when so many in our community continue to give so much time, effort and money into feeding and clothing these folks, Yes, there has been no reduction in the waiting list but that does not imply the we should close it. Doing so would abandon future mothers, fathers, children, vulnerable adults, the ill and suffering to the hideous life they would have to endure on the street. Thanks to all of you for helping.

We can use a few more volunteers to deliver meals. We also need tents sleeping bags, tarps, for those still outside. If any of you know of any cash paying day jobs, there are a lot of folks in the motels eager to work so that they can start saving for an apartment. Funds for deposits and apartment application fees, will become more necessary as our friends transition into more permanent housing. Please share with us and our community leaders any innovative ideas you have for housing all these people after the pandemic.

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
Email: hfleegel@aol.com
Website: homelesshelpinghomeless.org

Community happens when we realize that everyone of us are helpless at times, and that everyone of us can help in small ways at times, and we decide to get together at those times. God bless you all. -Harry, Mary, and Troy

Meeting the Challenge (May 04-17,2020)

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
Email: hfleegel@aol.com
Website: homelesshelpinghomeless.org

You are a blessing God has given us, Harry, Mary, and Troy

Very, Very Scary (April 27-May 3, 2020)

The pandemic is upon us. As of today, 675 people in the tri-county area have tested positive. Our hearts ache with compassion for our hard-working neighbors employed by the chicken and meat processing industries here.  Not only are they afflicted by this dread disease, but they have been sent home to quarantine with their families.  Mostly uninsured, these hard workers are unsure if they can go to the hospital. They fear infecting their loved ones and are worried about how they will pay their bills if their pay checks cease.    Some are not eligible for food assistance and by the end of the month, hunger will be a real problem in our community.  Many formerly employed will be faced with the specter of homelessness as their limited funds are used up. 

Try as we might, Homeless Helping Homeless is having difficulty keeping up with this ever-escalating crisis.  Although we have read the Wilder Reports regarding the depth of our affordable housing deficit, it took a pandemic to transform those abstract numbers into a visible visceral cacophony of misery and suffering. Everyone in town was aware of the 60 or so street people panhandling on the corners.  When the virus threatened us, we responded as we should have by energizing all sectors of our community to protect the most vulnerable among us and the motel housing program was instituted.  With the combined efforts of organizations and government we anticipated that 60 beds would be enough to meet our needs. Then people began flowing into the streets from the downsizing of shelters and jails. That was followed by folks leaving couches and basements of their friends due to fear of hosts catching Covid from their guests.  A third wave of people joined their fellows outside when they were laid off or had hours cut due to the slowdown and closure of many businesses. Now even more are in danger of being cast outside, as people with no safety net are becoming ill and cannot work. 

What has become painfully apparent is that Saint Cloud does not have enough housing for our people. Each day we are dumbfounded by the number of young couples with little kids coming to us for help. We listen to their heart wrenching stories of desperation. Today we had a young pregnant couple who were staying with friends who could not afford to support them after they had lost their jobs.  The two of them moved into their truck and lived there for a week. Then the truck was repossessed. For the last two nights they slept outside on a couch behind Savers.  Tonight, we will scrape up enough funds to put them in a motel for the night, hoping that enough donations come in tomorrow to pay for a longer stay.  With them we now have 82 people housed in motels, and yet our waiting list has grown to 117.  The Place of Hope has worked hard to provide the 550 meals needed to feed them.  140 additional meals were provided compliments of Neighbors to Friends, Catholic Workers and Kwik Trip.  Salvation Army provides bag lunches for motel residents as does the district.  Breakfast and laundry money are distributed compliments of Neighbors to Friends. 

The community has been generously assisting us with this monumental task.  Bethlehem Lutheran has donated funds, meals, toys, clothes and lots of volunteers and organizers, First United Methodist of Sartell provided funds, meals, and volunteers, the Benedictine Sisters in St. Joe donated clothing, Saint Michaels provided volunteers as did Catholic Charities and Catholic Workers.  We received six beds from Callan’s Furniture. $300 from Atonement Lutheran $1,205 from KC Council 12822. We received donations of clothing, games, face masks and $3,450 from other caring friends in the community this week. Your support is deeply appreciated by our petrified friends on the street.

A special thanks to Troy and Bill for consolidating and moving our stored furniture to a new location.

We expect to add two more motels this coming week as the current ones are full. That will add about 40 beds if we can procure funding.  Every little bit helps $20 provides a bed for someone for one night.

We can use drink boxes and snack sized potato chips for the motels and Lake George.

 Young strong volunteers for delivering meals to the motels are also welcome.

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

Email: hfleegel@aol.com

Website:  homelesshelpinghomeless.org

We are all called by God to love, care, and support one another, especially in times like this.

We treasure each of you, be careful,

Harry, Mary, and Troy

The Escalating Menace (April 20-26, 2020)

Even As the virus continues its inexorable attack on our community with increasing numbers of positives and even as we dread the oncoming corelated death count, other impacts of the pandemic are beginning to cascade upon us.   When our community first recognized that the unsheltered homeless with their higher incidence of underlying heath issues, limited access to hygiene, and few shelter-in-place options, were at higher risk, we sprang into action. Individuals, organizations, churches, businesses and government joined forces to provide motel spaces, food, and other essential services to folks we have known to be living in camps, cars and on the street.  We can take pride in the fact that funds were secured so that most of these folks were rapidly offered a safe place to ride this out.  Making Saint Cloud a safer place if the pandemic assaults us in full force.

We were blindsided when those who were recently homeless ,but doubled up on couches, started pouring into the streets. Their hosts, fearful of living in such close quarters during an epidemic began asking them to leave. Our waiting list for motel rooms increased by the dozens. 

This past week our town began to feel the economic impact of Covid-19.  Breadwinners have been laid off or let go. Many had been working low paid or part-time jobs and were barely squeaking by, paycheck to paycheck, by sharing space with relatives and friends.  With little or no remaining income these families were unable to pay their share of the household expenses and their hosts could not afford to support them.  Now we are encountering ever growing numbers of these families desperate and on the street. We have had a father with spouse and two little kids call from McDonalds frantic because he had no money and no place for his family for the night.  Even though the law says people cannot be evicted, no one wants to share living space with someone who wants them out. And how can we expect people who can hardly support themselves to support another family living with them. We have also had pregnant women, some abused, who are left alone and scared because all our usual shelters for them are full and they have no where to go. 

By today the number of people we are housing has increased to 77 and has amounted to 447 stays this week. This includes six families with 16 kids who were just brought in. The children range in age from 10 months to 9 years. Most are preschoolers.  As a result, our regular wait list, which is now up to 102, has been put on hold to accommodate them. Catholic Charities has received a grant that may house up to 55 of them and we have made arrangements with two more motels to house another 44. If we can procure funding.  Breakfast and laundry have been provided by Neighbors to Friends, lunch by Salvation Army, and the district. Place of Hope prepared 441 hot meals for dinner and Homeless Helping Homeless 77 meals for lunch. Our volunteers have been working hard to deliver all this food to the motels. 

Except for the motel program and the Lake George hot food program that fed 137 hungry folks this week most of our other services have been put on hold. We have provided clean clothes to those checking in as some are filthy after no showers for three weeks. 

We are eternally grateful to all the wonderful people helping with this challenge. What a wonderful city we live in, filled with so many caring and committed saints.  We want to thank Central Mn Catholic Workers for their food and in kind contributions funding and volunteer support, Saint Cloud Unitarian Universalist Fellowship for funding help , Coborn’s for 10,000 bags, the Bethlehem Lutheran Church, St John’s Episcopal Church, First United Methodist Church in Sartell, Catholic Charities, St. Michael’s, and St Peter and Paul’s all of whose members  have provided financial, volunteer and in kind donations.  We received $2606 in individual donations along with donations of mats, gift cards, face masks, care packs, games, food, clothing, household items and toys. We have had dozens of individual volunteers from the community including from staffs of political candidates. I want to especially thank the cooks and staff at Place of Hope for cooking and packing all those meals

We can use drink boxes and pouches, Volunteers to help deliver meals, and more help with motel costs.

Although things may appear desperate, the love of the Lord and the caring support we share with each other will carry us through.

Be safe,

Harry, Mary, and Troy