BOX Agencies band together to help families in crisis

By Dawn Schuett

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

RED WING — Social service agencies in Goodhue County will be in one place Tuesday to help people who are homeless or on the brink of it.

Agencies belonging to the Goodhue County Homeless Response Team are participating in Project Community Connect, an event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Church of St. Joseph in Red Wing where those in need will be able to get a hot meal, a bag of groceries, a flu shot, vouchers for winter coats and information about affordable housing, medical and legal assistance and transportation.

Staci Schmotter, outreach coordinator for the HOPE Coalition in Red Wing, said the event is being organized for the first time and coincides with National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week from Nov. 16-22.


More importantly, Schmotter said, it’s happening at a time when local social services agencies are seeing increased numbers of people struggling financially because of the economy.

"There’s a very great need out there," she said.

Schmotter, who helps people facing eviction, said this year is the worst she’s seen for evictions in the past six years.

"Families that we’ve never helped before are coming in," Schmotter said. Many who already had a hard time making ends meet can’t do it anymore without earning better wages, she said.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a renter in Goodhue County would need to earn an hourly wage of $13.38 to afford a two-bedroom apartment with a rent of $696 a month. The average wage earned by a renter in the county is $9.11, enough to afford rent of $474 a month on a two-bedroom apartment.

The number of home foreclosures projected in Goodhue County this year is 220, a 44 percent increase of the 153 foreclosures reported in 2007, according to the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund.

The Connecting Connection, a non-profit organization based in Red Wing, is also experiencing a greater demand for its services locally, said Patti Riebold, executive director. The organization runs a relief program to assist families in Honduras but also distributes household items and winter outerwear to families in need within a 70-mile radius of Red Wing.

"We’re getting more people call us all the time," Riebold said.


Other agencies that will be at Project Community Connect include Workforce Development Inc., Salvation Army, Three Rivers Community Action and Goodhue County Social Services.

Donations are being accepted to help individuals and families attending the event. Non-perishable food is needed to fill grocery bags. Jackets, coats, mittens and boots may be dropped off at The Connecting Connection, 1923 Bush St., Red Wing.


What: Project Community Connect, an afternoon to help those facing homelessness with information about housing, medical and legal assistance, food, clothing and other needs.

When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Church of St. Joseph, Holy Family Hall, 426 Eighth St., Red Wing

More information: Call HOPE Coalition at 651-388-9360, extension 19.

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