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7 ways to help those who are homeless

Representatives from several agencies offered ideas to helping during online forum Thursday

Homeless 4.JPG
Participants in an online forum held by St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and Calvary Episcopal Church were, top row from left, moderator Shanna Altrichter, Diane O’Mara of St. Luke's, the Rev. Justin Chapman of St. Luke's, Maj. Lisa Mueller of the Salvation Army, second row from left, Bri Bednar of Family Promise, Ryan Cardarella of Dorothy Day Hospitality House, Dan Fifield of The Landing MN, Rudy Naul of the Rochester Community Warming Center, third row from left, Trent Fluegel of the Olmsted County housing stability team, the Rev. Beth Royalty of Calvary, and Tim Geisler of the Society of Saint Vincent DePaul. (screen grab)

A forum seeking to provide the Rochester faith community with insights related to people struggling with homelessness provided a glimpse into several organizations that are helping, as well as ways they need help.

“What this community has learned is we can do anything, if our ‘we’ is large enough,” said Trent Fluegel, Olmsted County ’s housing resource coordinator, in reflecting on the response to homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said organizations represented in Thursday’s online forum, and others, joined together to tackle issues that might have been daunting for one group.

“The larger we make our ‘we,’ the greater the problems we can overcome,” he added.

Participants in the forum held by St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and Calvary Episcopal Church encouraged community members to join the effort.

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The panelists in addition to Fluegel were Ryan Cardarella, president of Dorothy Day Hospitality House ; Tim Geisler, Rochester district chapter president of Society of Saint Vincent DePaul ; Bri Bednar, executive director of Family Promise ; Dan Fifield, founder of The Landing MN ; Maj. Lisa Mueller of Salvation Army ; and Rudy Naul, coordinator of the Rochester Community Warming Center .

Here are a few ideas they offered to help people facing homelessness:

1. Think about your personal talents.

“It’s easy to overlook some talents,” Cardarella said.

He said a variety of skills, from home repair and cooking to organizing and bookkeeping, can be used by Dorothy Day Hospitality House and other organizations.

With COVID-19 restrictions, several forum participants said their organizations have had to scale back volunteer opportunities, but they still exist.

“We’ll take anybody who cares for others,” Geisler said, echoing a sentiment shared by others. “We can always find something for you to do.”

2. Be kind.

“The majority of the time they are not treated very well,” Fifield said of people facing homelessness. “They are shunned and looked down upon.”

He said staff at The Landing, which is operating a day center out of Silver Lake Station, have discovered the key to working with people who are struggling is to show them someone cares.

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He said staff and volunteers strive to make personal connections, and he encouraged others to do the same throughout the community.

3. Spend time in the kitchen.

“We need meals delivered to the North Star House,” Bednar said of Family Promises’ new center.

She said the organization is looking for individuals and families to prepare meals and drop them off, and Family Promise will start including opportunities to share meals with the families being served by the organization as more people are vaccinated.

Cardarella also cited a need for groups to volunteer to cook evening meats at Dorothy Day Hospitality House.

4 Bring your family.

“Families volunteering as families is important,” Naul said.

Naul said the warming center isn’t the place for family volunteering, but Family Promisewill find ways for families to engage when safe.

Fifield said families are also encouraged to volunteer with The Landing at the day center.

5. Engage politically.

“Advocate for not just these organizations,” but others too, Cardarella said.

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He suggested contacting local elected officials to advocate for affordable housing options, mental health resources and other needed services to support people who are homeless..

6. Bring understanding.

“This is a really complex issue in our community, and the approach to it needs to be multifaceted and complex as well,” Mueller said, encouraging residents to take time to see uniqueness and dignity in people facing homelessness.

It was a message that was shared throughout Thursday's discussion.

“There is no one situation or scenario that describes the people we see,” Cardarella said.

7. Donate.

Agencies that help the homeless need supplies.

Suggestions included backpacks and jeans to be handed out at the Salvation Army, bottled water and camping equipment for distribution by The Landing, and food for the Family Promise pantry.

All the agencies suggested contacting them to determine what is needed when ready to make a contribution.

A video of the online forum will be posted on the St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and Calvary Episcopal Church websites when it is available.



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Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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