Local event seeks to help homeless

Kevin McCahill

Colder weather can make life difficult for the homeless, but University students are pitching in to help.

As part of Students Mobilized to End Homelessness, students will gather in St. Paul tonight to raise awareness for homelessness and poverty in Minnesota. HOPE, the Homeless Outreach Performance Event, begins at 7 p.m. at the Minnesota Business Academy in St. Paul.

The group is composed of seven colleges and universities around the Twin Cities, including the University of Minnesota.

The event is free, and those attending are encouraged to bring winter clothes to donate.

The National Coalition for the Homeless estimates that nearly 3.5 million people find themselves homeless each year, with 1.35 million of those being children. A 2003 Amherst H. Wilder Foundation study estimates 8,800 Minnesotans are homeless and 11,000 are living in temporary or unstable housing.

Michele Smith, an American studies and sociology junior and member of Students Mobilized to End Homelessness, helped organize the event as an intern with the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless. Smith said she has a passion for helping those in need.

“I feel like (the homeless) are a group that doesn’t get a lot of attention brought to them,” she said.

Smith is hoping to raise awareness for homeless issues to get more students involved.

More students would volunteer to work with the homeless if they were aware of how many homeless people there are in the Twin Cities, she said.

Money from tonight’s event will go toward local shelters and food and clothes shelves, Smith said.

“It’s going to be a fun event,” Smith said. “It’s a chance to meet a community of people that you don’t get to meet all the time.”

Jessica Flannigan, communication and development director for the Minnesota Business Academy, also helped organize the event.

She said there will be entertainment, including live music, clothing and food drives, as well as a performance by the academy’s drama club. The club will present a series of monologues written by Tony Lynn, a homeless man, Flannigan said.

“Bringing people together on a specific issue to discuss it is a huge thing,” she said. “It shows there are things we can do.”

Some homeless people around the Twin Cities are thankful for the help that shelters and volunteers provide. Residents at People Serving People in Minneapolis said the shelter has offered a lot of services for those in need.

Eric Mahone has been living at People Serving People for five days, but said it was comforting knowing others care about his family’s well-being.

Christina Wimmer, who has lived at People Serving People since late October, said the facility’s clinic, library and staff have been a big help.

“The only way this country works is if people help each other,” she said.

Leah Geiger, of People Serving People, said volunteers at the shelter provided 18,000 hours of service during 2004.

During one afternoon lunch shift, a team of volunteers served meals with smiles while working with the residents of the facility.

Geiger described volunteers as the life of the organization.

“The people involved really do care,” she said.