Supplement (April 7, 2020)

We at Homeless Helping Homeless are fortunate to have Troy Scott as the chair of our board of directors. During this pandemic he has really stepped up and filled in where Mary and Harry have been unable to because of being restricted to their apartment. He has worked tirelessly to serve our members sheltered, unsheltered and in cars. If you have dropped off or picked up food or care packs at Lake George, he was there. Who delivers the evening meal to those sheltering in place in the motels? It has been Troy. He delivers clothing to those who need it, picks up the mail and purchases supplies. We at HHH are all proud of the effort he is putting in.  Here is a text he sent us outlining what he did last week. 

“On the street; I personally gave 8 gas cards, 4 cases of water, paid for 3 prescriptions , gave razor and shaving cream to 5 separate individuals, 14 pairs of jeans, 5 pairs of shorts, 5 sleeping bags 4 tents, 2 air mattresses, 1 box spring, 89 hot meals, 6 pair of sweatpants, tons of socks, 2 tarps, got 1 van out of impound, delivered a couch, and scarves, hats and two winter jackets, have given out the 48 grabs bags of snacks that Bethlehem Lutheran donated, 24 face masks, $300 in cash and gift cards, hand sanitizer, 24 Kleenex packs, a heated blanket, a bag of towels and wash cloths, 11sweaters, 10 t-shirts, and 1 case of Gatorade… and I think that’s it😃”

Wow! We can’t thank him enough, so we will need your help. Next time you see him, please let him know how much he is appreciated. We’d like to also give you a little more detail on how you can help.  The motels cost us around $200 per person per week. We now have 13 people in them totaling $2,600 per week. We have space for 40 more, the unsheltered are still out there, putting up with the ever dire and worsening situation we described in the last update. We could use your help. If you could just sponsor one person for one week, one unsheltered neighbor would be safer as would we all.  It costs us $5.00 per person per day to get them at least one hot meal. You could help by either purchasing the meal for one night a week or donating $5.00 to feed one individual for a day. 

May the Lord bless you and keep you safe from harm. Harry, Mary and Troy

Proud of the Members of Our Community (March 22-28, 2020)

As the response to Covid-19 has intensified this week, life for the unsheltered has become more difficult.   Normal channels for procuring, food clothing and shelter are closing, reducing or changing hours or going on-line. Rumors are flying, and there is a lot of misinformation being shared, Crossroads a good place to get out of the weather closed. The restroom at Lake George is now locked, eliminating another place for folks to clean up.  And being many cannot go to our area shelters because of limitations on shelter space or other restrictions they still have no place to legally camp or sleep. Many have heath problems such as diabetes, asthma, addiction, heart disease and other immune compromising issues that will jeopardize them when the virus arrives in full force.  Adding sleep deprivation and living outdoors only makes them more susceptible to being infected.

We were excited last week when we heard that a dorm on the SCSU campus would be available for housing folks in response to the virus.  We were also encouraged by the example Hennepin and Ramsey County provided when they immediately made motel rooms available to those experiencing homelessness in their communities to those with underlying heath issues that made them more susceptible to the outbreak.  To date, however, the are no people being housed in the dorms.  Our emergency management operations people have determined that they will reserve the dorm for only those homeless who have tested positive. This decision leaves all those cold, sleep-deprived, health impaired, underfed neighbors outside and on the street, to fend for themselves.  Furthermore, to our knowledge, they have not put either the sheltered or unsheltered on any priority list to be tested.  If they already are infected, no one knows.  They are being left out in the community to mingle and possibly expose others. This rejection of procedures that have been determined by other communities to be an effective method of delaying the progression of this disease has put not only those experiencing homelessness in mortal danger, but the whole tri-county area.

We see this virus as a freight train barreling toward an unsuspecting person walking along the tracks.  We as a community can either leap to our feet, take a run, and knock the poor soul out of harms way. Or we can wring our hands, waste time setting up criteria and protocols trying to determine what would possibly go wrong in our effort to save the stroller. We could check if our insurance would cover it if an arm was broke, or if we could be sued or try to determine if our shouts could be heard over the roar of the approaching behemoth, or we can act.

I am very proud of the members of our community.  They are again proving to us that they can make quick lifesaving decisions.  That it is sometimes best to just act and do it now.  Since we couldn’t wait for the bureaucrats any longer, we and Neighbors to Friends, yesterday put six unsheltered people with underlying heath issues, into a motel.  Saint Cloud Prepper Pals immediately responded with a two-day supply of food, toiletries and other supplies. A grant was provided to house many more, starting tomorrow. We along with Neighbors to Friends have set up a care pack pick up station at Lake George to provide food and sanitary items to unsheltered neighbors. Catholic Workers, and generous souls from Bethlehem Lutheran and First United Methodist churches have enrolled an army of volunteers who are providing food, funds, care packs and other necessities.  Over 40 sleeping bags, one tank of propane Four gas or gift cards  6 tents 3 air mattresses 3 tarps, hundreds of socks, lots of underwear, clothes, sanitizer, coats, care packs, and over 64 meals  have been distributed this week  by us, Neighbors to Friends and Catholic Charities Emergency services for Homeless Youth. We have paid for two bus fares home, had 1 pickup and 8 deliveries of furniture and household items, 5 requests for furniture and one for car repairs, We have put together an informational flyer titled “How to Stay Well”, to hand out to those on the street, most of which have no computers, TVs or phones to learn how to protect themselves.  A copy is attached.

On a positive note, relationships with the police have improved. They have begun trying to locate the inhabitants of camps prior to the camps destruction so that campers can claim their personal property.  Trespasses and citations are down and with one exception, all officers have been polite and courteous when asking folks to move on. We realize that the police must respond to complaints, but we have been visited both at Lake George and Kwik Trip by police when we were just distributing food, supplies and flyers.  We need to educate the public so that they realized that the only way to educate unsheltered folks regarding safe distancing and the like, is on the street. We remind these folks to maintain the six-foot distance and tell them why.  We let them know where they can get food and services and try to connect them to social workers and paramedics since they can no longer go to the service centers in person and there are no public computers available since the library closed.  The public may see groups of homeless assembled, hopefully 6 ft apart, while we provide this info. Please don’t be alarmed. We are doing good.

We would like to thank the Franciscan Sisters at Welcoming House For the gift cards and $140 cash donation they collected for us, Bethlehem Lutheran for a $302 donation and all the individual contributors who donated an additional $300, this week

Our top needs this week are funds to pay for motels, gas and gift cards, food for those in motels and at lake George and Care Packs

We wish we could give each of you, and all our sheltered and unsheltered friends a hug. This is so hard. Bless and pray for the lonely, sick and suffering this week.  Trust in God and love each other. Harry and Mary

How are the Homeless in Saint Cloud Responding to the Pandemic (March 5-21, 2020)

The world of those experiencing homelessness has certainly become more challenging since our last “On the Street” report.   With the advance of the virus into MN and our community people without a permanent place to call home, are having, like many others, to deal with a host of disruptions to their lives.  The already all-consuming effort to stay warm, fed, and alive has been made ever more difficult by the closing of safe havens like the library, restaurants and stores and the changing schedules of service providers.  As for places to sleep the Salvation Army is full, On Friday the Place of Hope was open to those who wish to stay the night if they register between 4:30 and 6:00 pm or are brought in by police. Otherwise the doors are locked except for smoke breaks. If you leave, you cannot return for 24 hours per two staff on two different shifts.  If you do not stay overnight, you cannot stay for meals.  Bag lunches are available instead of the evening meal. No food is provided for breakfast or lunch on weekdays except for residents.  Salvation Army provides a bag lunch on weekdays. The food shelf at Catholic Charities has reduced hours and is providing food in bags. Most community meals at area churches have switched to bag lunches.  Many of these changes are prudent considering the pandemic but are often confusing to those who depend on them.

As recently as the 17th the police have continued to trespass folks, issue citations for trespassing or ask those not trespassing to move on, preventing them from re-establishing camps, or finding anywhere legal to sleep. This has compounded the stress and resulted in 2 additional frostbite cases from sleeping in a parking ramp. Thankfully the leaders in our community are responding to this obvious health emergency and will soon be providing sleeping accommodations in a safe social distancing environment at a dorm on the SCSU campus that will be able to isolate those testing positive. We look forward to assisting in any way possible in facilitating this encouraging development.

Our own services have also had to either be curtailed or altered as a result of Covid 19.  We can no longer provide free rides or pick up and deliver furniture, because our volunteers, donors, and recipients are often at risk because of age or health. Laundry Love similarly has been put temporarily on hold. We are not however closed. We have been busier than ever trying to adapt to our new reality and keep all those on the streets informed, safe, warm and fed. This period we have distributed 7 sleeping bags, ten tanks of propane, 5 gas cards, 10 air mattresses. We have had one furniture pickup and 4 requests for pickup, 8 deliveries and 5 requests. Six folks were placed in a motel room, 2 sent to hospital, 13 trespassed, issued trespassing, citations or told to move on by police for camping, sleeping in garages, parking ramps, and entryways that we know of.  We have assisted in placing two people into housing.

 Our friends are now pouring on to the streets in increased numbers. The cold weather rules for warming centers no longer apply. People trespassed from shelters can now be refused entry.  The jail is trying to reduce its population and soon those in apartments who can no longer afford to pay their rent will be evicted. Those who depend on panhandling have seen donations to them decreasing dramatically.  Those on the street are becoming ever more desperate. 

We are being asked for things we have not encountered before. couples need money to get home, to mom and dad, they are scared and need their families now more than ever. We are being asked to help with car repairs so a mother and her disabled son can continue living in their currently nonfunctional car, recently a need for clothing has surfaced as all the thrift shops are closed. Most of all, we are being asked for food. And always for a place to stay.  Our last message detailed how a person can help those outside while not creating a health risk for yourselves. The response has been outstanding. churches and individuals have stepped up and responded in dynamic ways assembling care packs and getting them out or asking where to find those who need them.  Individuals have contributed sleeping bags, gift cards, household goods, furniture, tarps, tents hand sanitizer, clothing and $960 in cash. St Paul’s contributed household items, Weaving Love MN donated several mats. It’s great to live in such a caring community.

 Neighbors to Friends have set up a location for the collection and distribution of bags of light weight non-perishable packaged food for at Lake George on the warming house side starting Tuesday from 2:00 to 3:00. If you cannot get to Lake George, panhandlers can also be found near Savors, Walmart, Taco Bell, Cashwise, McDonalds, 25th Ave. by Culvers on Highway 10, near KwikTrips, the library, Salvation Army, 9th Ave express, the downtown bus depot, courthouse square, parking lot across from capital one.

What we need are tents, sleeping bags, tarps, hand sanitizer, food gift cards, cash donations and care packs.  Our donor page on Homelesshelpinghomeless.org is now active.  We expect that increased isolation rooms may be needed at motels depending on how quickly the dorm solution is implemented and an increase in demand for clothing.

Remember during these stressful times, to take some of the extra time you have been given to connect with those you love, and reach out to someone who is alone. A kind word benefits both the speaker and the listener.

No Place to Sleep; Our Housing Crisis (Feb 27-March 4, 2020)

We continue to be amazed by the strength and perseverance of those experiencing homelessness in our community. They are continuously stressed by constant setbacks and hardships while often afflicted simultaneously with physical, and mental health challenges.  Their courage and determination to live on under such cruel treatment makes our personal worries appear trivial. We are humbled to count such folks as these our friends. Last week we shared how those in camps were being evicted. We convinced a few of them to go to shelters to stay warm and avoid being arrested until they could move their camps, only to find all their possessions confiscated upon their return to the East campsite.  Their tents, sleeping bags, heaters, clothes and all their possessions gone without notice. Another’s tent was burnt down while he was away. They were all crushed, angry and felt betrayed. Since it was cold, we had convinced them to take what appeared to be a safe reasonable course of action and stay in a shelter. They lost everything as a result. If the powers that be, expect to try to get people out of camps, punishing them when they do, is not the way to do it.  We reached out to the city and police and asked that they recommend a safe place for them to camp and were rebuffed.  This situation is untenable. People must sleep somewhere.  Even half dead animals don’t deserve to be kicked every time we pass by.

Now that temperatures are rising the warming centers are no longer an option.  The cold weather rules no longer apply and those with barriers can no longer stay in them. Recently residents in shelters were ordered to take everything they own with them every time they leave, or it will be thrown.  Others were given ten days to pick up their stuff or it will be disposed of. Add all that stress to the fact that you have no home to take it to,  and that if you try to lug it all to a camp or park or abandoned building or garage and stay there with it, you could be arrested or moved on.

The generation of all this tension is creating quite an explosive mix on the street. Folks are beginning to turn on one another. Already the violence has increased as those whose every possession is gone, steal someone else’s bedding or clothing to stay warm.  More are turning to drugs and alcohol just to get some relief from their misery There is a notable increase of people wandering around in a daze with all their stuff in shopping carts and begging on corners. Is this the image we want for our city?

The housing situation is in crisis.  There are very few places to rent that our neighbors can get into or afford. Even while possessing vouchers from the government that pays most of the rent, the homeless are hard pressed to find places that will take them.  The thrill of receiving a voucher is quickly turned into despair when a place to rent can’t be found. Property managers are increasingly expanding barriers to exclude these folks from their apartments, background checks, rental history, criminal history, credit scores, income requirements, huge deposits all are being used to keep the homeless, homeless.  Something must be done.

Thankfully the good citizens of St Cloud, many of its churches and community organizations still believe in the dignity of others.  One by one and group by group people disturbed by the situation are coming forward to do something about it.  One person, hearing of a couple who lost all at the East camp, found them on 33rd and purchased a new tent, clothes, and handwarmers for them and provided comfort, prayer, and council. Churches provided them with sleeping bags.  Many continue to offer the funds and equipment required for their  stressed out neighbors to simply survive If only our city and county governments could be persuaded to join in this initiative and seriously attempt to rectify these issues in constructive ways instead of using our taxes and our ordinances to repress, criminalize, and incarcerate the powerless and impoverished.   A few regulatory changes would make things easier for those struggling without places to live and sleep without breaking the law.  Now may be the time for those  of us who care to let our officials know that we don’t approve of the way that they are wasting our taxes chasing homeless people around jailing them on minor charges then releasing them only to start chasing them around again. Our elected and employed officials need to be charged by us the citizenry to find a place for them to stay, if the public option cannot be implemented quickly, officials should seek out, encourage and provide political cover for landowners and community folks who can.

This week also included having seven volunteers helping move furniture on Saturday, a generous person renting a truck for us. The Francian Sisters donating socks and gloves, Bethlehem Lutheran gifting long johns and quilts, Neighbors to friends providing us with adult diapers.  Nancy represented us at the working group on housing.  We received $110 in donations.  We gave away 5 gas cards, 5 20-lb tanks of propane. Had 7 Furniture and household deliveries, and 2 pick-ups. We had 5 new requests for housing 3 with kids. No housing was found.  Of the people who were evicted from the camps, one left town, 2 are in jail, 2 on the street, the rest are still camping in town, location unknown.

Remember always to always be gentle and patient with one another-Harry and Mary

The City Let Us Down (Feb 20-26, 2020)

The City of Saint Cloud really let us down this week.  As you know the campers in the Cooper Ave woods were evicted last week and some of them moved to the East side woods. After some had set up camp a very courteous police officer informed them that the spot they had chosen was on private property and that they should move to a spot where they could camp without a problem.  The next day the police showed up and arrested one camper on a warrant. On Thursday night the police arrived at the East woods again and informed the campers that they would have to leave by noon Friday. On Friday morning, I called the city and the police to find out what was going on and if the current site wasn’t suitable, what options were out there that were. Tuesday at the warming center meeting we were told that there were none and that our only option was to find a private landowner who would accept us. Because the campers have already been asked to leave, we have had no time to find such a site.  We now have around 12 people who are camping illegally with no place to go.  If they stay at the East woods they can be arrested. If they return to the Cooper woods, they can be arrested. If they camp in a park, they can be arrested and if they camp in the city hall parking lot, they can be arrested. 

We fail to see how this is in anyone’s best interest.  When someone is arrested for trespassing, they are generally taken to the jail.  The next day they are taken before a judge and usually released. It is not a good use of taxpayer resources to continuously arrest five to ten people per day, day after day, send them to jail, then to court, and then release them with nowhere to go. Having no other option, they will probably reset up camp the next day, somewhere else, only to face the chance of re-arrest. As the weather warms the situation will only worsen.  The shelters currently providing places in their warming centers will not continue to house folks that they have trespassed when the cold weather rules no longer apply.  Most of these individuals will end up on the street and in camps. 

In our opinion it would be better for the city to designate some parcel for use by campers.  Community organizations could cover the cost of toilets, showers and trash removal etc. People experiencing Homelessness need some place to be. Feeding and housing them at the jail, while it saves our organization money, is not fair to them or the taxpayers.  While a lot of excellent ideas have been brought up, most are long term and do little to answer the question of, “where will these folks sleep tonight?”. Any other suggestions?

Thank you to Lucy, one of our volunteers, for spending a good portion of her day comforting one of our members who lost a parent, and to Rosamond for helping sort blankets.  The staff attended the warming center meeting and congratulated the Salvation Army and the Place of Hope for opening their facilities to those with barriers during our cold spells.  Tri-cap suggested we explore the possibility of setting up a slush fund to pay for motels during extreme weather.

Of those we had contact with, one person was evicted and went to Place of Hope., 2 left POH for the street, one went from the street to POH, one from Anne Marie’s to POH. 4 people are living in a motel at their own expense, 3 in cars.

We had 3 furniture pickups and 7 deliveries, gave out 4 gas cards and 6-20lb tanks of propane.   

We received $35 in gift cards and 50 towels from individuals and a $500 donation from First United Methodist Church. Wow, did we ever need that after all this cold. We took our homeless volunteer movers out to lunch at the Covenant/ Bethlehem community meal. The food was excellent, they really excel at feeding the hungry.

We are currently in need of tarps and tents. Many get damaged during the frequent moves our campers are forced to endure. We also need pots and pans and toasters and vacuums for our lucky friends moving into apartments.  Thank you and remember to be kind to everyone you meet. -Harry and Mary

Another Brutal One (Jan 21, 2020)

Tent blown away by snow storm.

This week was another brutal one for the homeless in Saint Cloud. It was bad enough that the temperatures were below zero and we had another bout of snow, but then the wind arrived viciously assaulting all our neighbors outside. It brutally attacked those seeking shelter on stairwells and in parking ramps. It sucked the gas out of those in cars. It made a mockery out of attempts to heat the tents our people are living in. Tarps were ripped off of camping shelters , leaving residents exposed to 25 below windchill. In my rounds I checked on one man whose tent was in a shambles. Tarps scattered through the woods, nothing was left of it but screen. In the corner of the rubble was a heap of unrolled sleeping bags covered in snow. I apprehensively approached the site wary of what I might find and called out his name. A slight movement. I called again a voice responded and unbelievably a head pushed out. He was alive…. As I was shivering almost uncontrollably despite wearing long johns, several layers and a heavy coat, I couldn’t imagine what he endured during the night. It didn’t take much convincing to get him to leave with me for someplace warm. Thanks to all of you for your help in providing warmth and life to our friends. Since December 28 when this cold spell started we have tended to 42 folks in crisis because of the cold. 4 were placed in private homes, 3 sheltered out of town, 5 in motels, 6 left on street, 3 to hospital, 3 left in woods, 4 to Salvation Army, 9 to Place of Hope, 3 left in cars, 1 to Cummings, 1 left in jail entryway. We hope it warms up soon.

The Below Zero Spell (Jan 28, 2020)

Frost Bite (Photos used with permission)

Finally the weather broke reducing the need for our neighbors outside to call for emergency help. One new couple went to the woods in Sartell and needed sleeping bags. And one woman left the woods in town and doubled up in a friends apartment. One woman and disabled son living in her car needed gas to stay warm, as did another man also living in his car. We distributed six 20 lb tanks of propane, and 11 gas cards this week, gas cards were for both for heating and reimbursements for those giving rides. The warmer weather also allowed us to resume the furniture program and we had six pickups and 11 deliveries. We had a table at Side Street on the SCSU campus and were given caps and gloves by Capital One and socks, personal care kits and a sleeping bag by Socks for the Soul, there. I had a meeting with HRA establishing criteria for verification of homelessness for those on the street.

HHH is now authorized to do this. We participated in the PIT count at the Salvation Army and library with many of our members assisting. The community continued their generous support with Bethleham Luthern donating scarves and hats, Catholic Workers hot food and numerous individuals contributing funds, food, gift cards, furniture,household items and volunteer time. Thank you all. We are in need of beds, dressers, and pots and pans. On the challenging side our folks have been hit with an outbreak of influenza A. Many are going to ER. A group of 8 people who have been doubled up have been ordered to leave by Wednesday by a new landlord. Two of them are suffering from frostbite from their last stay outside. We are looking for warm places for them. I hope I don’t gross you out, but I want to show you how serious frostbite is and why we work so hard to find warm places to go. This woman got frostbite two weeks ago in Saint Cloud during that below zero spell. She has been treated and released by the hospital and is healing well . It is still very painful however. This is what it looked like yesterday . What frostbite looks like in two weeks.