Steele County non-profits come together to help homeless - Owatonna MN: Owatonna Peoples Press

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Steele County non-profits come together to help homeless

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Posted: Friday, January 18, 2013 1:55 pm | Updated: 10:48 am, Thu Jan 24, 2013.

OWATONNA — Society’s view of homelessness and poverty has changed in recent years as people have come to realize that anyone can become homeless at any time.

With that in mind, Steele County area non-profit organizations will band together next week to put on an event to help those who are either homeless or at risk to become homeless. The event is put on by the Steele County Community Services Coordination Team, and will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 24.

“The purpose of the event is for people who are homeless or at risk for homelessness to be able to access many services at once,” said Julie Anderson, executive director of Steele County Transitional Housing.

The services offered include legal, housing, transportation, parenting, food and clothing, refugee, employment, childcare information. Licensed local hair stylists will be on hand to offer free hair cuts and Steele County Public Health will offer free flu shots.

The Owatonna Ministerial Association will sponsor a meal for those in attendance. The event is in its fourth year, and Anderson said there are typically between 80 and 100 people in attendance.

Each person who attends the event will also receive a hygiene kit with several toiletry items, razors, socks and laundry soap. Owatonna Junior High School students collected the supplies for the hygiene kits, and Steele County Public Health will handle the distribution.

Anderson said the fact that so many non-profits and other community organizations came together shows how much Steele County tries to take care of its citizens. The event will be a judgement-free zone, she said.

“I think it really illustrates the generosity of the community and the concern about social justice, safety and security for our families,” Anderson said. “We are an exceptional community. This is a more giving community than most. It also says that we are cooperative and we work together very well.”

Anderson said that since the Great Recession, it is becoming more apparent that homelessness can affect more than the proverbial person sleeping under a bridge. She said now, people who are homeless can be “couch hopping,” or staying with someone new on any given night, people fleeing abusers or someone who has recently lost their job.

“A lot of the people that are experiencing homelessness do not fit the stereotype of a homeless person,” Anderson said. “That has changed how we approach this event. When we’re talking to people, they don’t always associate themselves as homeless. They don’t give themselves that label.

“We’ve changed how we’ve advertised the event and how we’ve packaged it so the average person who’s homeless identify that they do have that need.”

Reach reporter Al Strain at 444-2376 or follow him on Twitter.com@OPPalstrain

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