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Viewpoint: Time to help the homeless right here

To the Editor:

Homelessness is a critical issue in the towns and rural areas of Goodhue County. In Red Wing, three years ago a group of citizens formed a committee to address the shelter needs of homeless individuals and families. We work in collaboration with HOPE Coalition, Connecting Connections, Youth Outreach and the Salvation Army. HOPE Coalition's housing advocate and a board member are members of this committee and we are grateful that HOPE continues to be our fiscal agent.

During this time we have been able to provide emergency shelter for the homeless who have been referred to Joanne, the housing advocate. This has been possible because of the generous support from churches, a foundation and a concerned group of individuals.

Our goal is to find a building that can be a permanent shelter. It would be a place where we could keep people for longer periods of time so that we could help at least some of them to get resources that would enable them to get off the street. This is difficult because of zoning restrictions, but we will continue to hope and explore possible sites.

From November this past year to October 2016, we provided shelter and food to 16 families and 31 individuals. Shelter ranged from a week at a boarding house for a single person to several days at a motel for families. Because of the generosity in this community, we were able to provide care to everyone referred to the housing advocate.

We have spent $14,000 for food and shelter from November to this October.

Our goal this 12-month period is $18,000. We anticipate an increasing number of homeless people and increases in the cost of food and shelter.

There are many ways you can help. Churches can provide donations from their regular budgets or host a "Shelter Sunday" and collect a free-will offering. Individuals and corporations can make tax-deductible contributions (HOPE Coalition's tax ID number is 41-179180) and donations can be sent to HOPE Coalition, 1407 W. Fourth St. Red Wing, MN, 55066. It is important to include the word homeless in the memo line of your check or a note sent with your donation.

And perhaps the most important thing any of us can do is become active advocates for and with the homeless.

On behalf of the homeless, thank you for the support you have given in our community. You really do make what we do possible. If you have questions or concerns, please contact Jerry O'Rourke at 651-388-3348 or Jack Nordgaard at 651-388-7731.

Jerry O'Rourke

Jack Nordgaard

Red Wing

Jerry O'Rourke and Jack Nordgaard are members of the Red Wing Area Homeless Committee.