By Brooke Greene / Staff Writer
As society adapts to the new social norm of living life in a pandemic-ridden state of being, we see more and more struggle financially. Jobs have been lost, homes have struggled and families have been broken by loss.
Most of the world is struggling, but it is important to keep the most vulnerable – homeless citizens – in mind.
New Beginnings and the NOEL Lodge make efforts to improve the quality of life for those who have lost their homes. They offer shelter and employment opportunities for those in need, however, that has been even more of a challenge under the circumstances of Covid-19.
The number of people allowed in has decreased, as they have dropped from over 20 beds to 13. New Beginnings was not able to hold their quarterly supply drives this year due to Covid-19. As a result, they are accepting donations for the NOEL Lodge.
“Specifically, we need 39-gallon trash bags and plastic utensils. Because of COVID, we are deep cleaning the Lodge everyday. Donations of masks, gloves, and disinfectant wipes are also needed for our cleaning crew,” said Shara Gonzales, New Beginnings CEO.
Volunteers are needed, as the NOEL Lodge is working on a plan for homeless outreach to help find those in need and make it known what is available. However, while this plan is still in progress, it is encouraged to join and watch New Beginnings’ Facebook page for details if one wishes to volunteer.
Temperatures are being taken of the homeless who are staying at the shelter, and masks are being provided to them. Social distancing is also being enforced. Those who do fall ill are assisted in getting to Prairie Star for medical help. Some homeless choose not to stay at the shelter, or cannot due to the lack of space.
While some might feel inclined to help by giving the homeless money, this is not always in the best interests of the homeless.
“We have not seen an increase in homeless. As is usually the case, when the colder weather hits, they often will find shelter with family or friends. Sometimes, well-meaning individuals in the community will give the homeless money for a motel room. This practice is not always a safe alternative for a homeless person in recovery, as there is often drug use in the less expensive motels,” Gonzales said.
There are other ways to get involved with helping the homeless. Some alternatives may be creating care packages, or “blessing bags”. Thes bags consist of gloves, a hat, a few dollars for food or other necessities, such as a toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, a few snacks, a water bottle and sometimes a small fleece blanket to help fight the cold. These bags can typically be composed for less than $20 and can be kept in one’s car for when the opportunity arises to help someone in need. Getting involved in the community’s efforts to help the homeless is also a wonderful way to provide for the less fortunate. Soup kitchens take volunteers, as well as many churches and homeless shelters.
“What can the community do? Get involved. Be active in your community. Multiple organizations need your help. Many of the organizations provide services to the same population of people,” Gonzales said. “Learn about the issues in your community and use your voice for positive growth. Seek to know where others are coming from and advocate for them. Look into the mental health issues in our nation so that you may better understand why so many are chronically homeless.”