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Man sleeps on the streets

Duluth Salvation Army seeks out the homeless

Added on Friday, August 16, 2013

Normally it’s the homeless who seek help. In Duluth, it’s the other way around.

The Duluth Salvation Army is part of a new outreach group that proactively searches for homeless people by walking the streets, looking under bridges and hiking in the woods. The group goes out every Tuesday and Thursday between 5 and 8 p.m. When they find someone, they offer food, water, hygiene products, and information about services that can get them out of homelessness.

“It’s not easy work,” said Dan Moore, Social Services Program Director at the Duluth Salvation Army. “Duluth is hilly and volunteers may have to tromp through the deep grass, brush and trees.”

Sometimes, the group stumbles onto several homeless people. They recently found a small homeless camp in the woods “owned” by two people who’d marked off their territory with pop cans. Moore approached the pair and asked if they needed help. Though they didn’t respond and walked away, Moore and the group left some food, water and hygiene kits anyway. Twenty minutes later, Moore returned and the supplies were gone.

Other times, the group stumbles onto the unexpected. They once found a woman who was barely breathing. They called the police to get help and, ultimately, saved her life.

Genesis

The group began earlier this year and includes the Duluth Salvation Army, Loaves and Fishes, Churches United in Ministry (CHUM) and the Human Development Center (HDC). Deb Holeman, an employee of both the CHUM and HDC, started doing this work by herself in 2005. Over the years her work exploded. It became obvious to fellow nonprofits that Holeman needed help, so they formed the current group to provide a solution.

In July the group held their first volunteer training session for community members wanting to get involved. To the group’s amazement, 48 people attended and were trained on homelessness. With the help of police and other local resources, volunteers were educated on what to expect with homelessness, such as approaching someone’s tent or box; handling someone who may be drunk, drugged or angry; or what to do when someone needs medical attention.

“Volunteers are needed to seek out the homeless or to find and coordinate organizations willing to donate food, sleeping bags, tents, and more,” said Moore.

Although a majority of the homeless population leaves the Duluth area for the winter, it is expected that the Homeless Outreach Program will grow as more volunteers find more homeless people.

To volunteer or donate in-kind items to the Homeless Outreach Program through The Salvation Army, call Dan Moore at 218-722-7934. Online donations are also accepted for the program. Type “Duluth Homeless Project” in the Specific Use field.