Drive lends a hand to help homelessOne small item, something most people take for granted every day, can help a homeless teen.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
One small item, something most people take for granted every day, can help a homeless teen.
“It can be as simple as a bottle of water,” said Pakou Ly, a member of Leadership Duluth Program.
A toothbrush, a pair of mittens, a box of granola bars, a blanket; even little things make a difference.
“Can openers, believe it or not, are a big deal,” said Jane Larson, coordinator of prevention services at the Human Development Center.
Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. donations for HDC’s Project Reach Out will be accepted in front of Wal-Mart in Superior. The program provides 24-hour crisis intervention for teens and their families.
“Our primary goal, if at all possible, is to help that youth get home,” Larson said. But they also look into other options and serve as a resource for the teen and their family, connecting them to other organizations that can help. The program is in need of donations for the 50 youth and young adults currently receiving assistance. Needed items range from socks and hats to toilet paper and feminine hygiene products; from sleeping bags to non-perishable snack food.
The supply drive is organized by members of Leadership Duluth, who held a similar event two weeks ago outside the Hermantown Wal-Mart. People donated six pick-up loads of items for the HDC’s Homeless Project in Duluth that day. Some purchased items at the store, then went home for more. One little boy sent his savings — a bag of pennies and nickels — to the event with his mother.
“Folks they just really poured out their hearts,” Ly said. The group is hoping for a similar response in Superior.
Reaching homeless populations in both cities made sense to the Leadership Duluth group, she said.
“As Duluth faces the issue, so does Superior,” she said. “It makes the Twin Ports more sustainable, a more welcoming community for everyone.”
In 2011, Project Reach Out worked extensively with 82 youth age 17 and younger. Staff also worked with 145 teens and young adults through off-site or street-based services and fielded 279 crisis line calls.
“We just have so many families in need,” Larson said. “Not just in this community, all over.”
Every month Ly sees the faces of people who are struggling when she volunteers at a free community breakfast held by her church. They come in all ages.
“We just can’t be blind to it,” said Ly, public information coordinator for the city of Duluth. “We need to do something.”
Meanwhile, many other Northland families are just getting by.
“One thing could separate a lot of us from a similar situation,” Larson said. Loss of a job, an illness or reduced hours at work could push them into homelessness.
Extending help now is like paying it forward, Larson said.
“Hopefully it will be available if you need help as well,” she said. “The more we can do to help, the better we’ll all be for it.”
Items can also be dropped off during business hours at US Bank locations in Duluth and Gloria Dei Church. A little can go a long way to providing comfort to homeless teens. The basics mean a lot, supply drive organizers said, when you don’t have them.