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