Here, homeless are families, residents

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 5, 1999

Few Freeborn County residents may even be aware there is a problem with homelessness in the community, said Colette Turcotte of Community Action Agency.

Sunday, September 05, 1999

Few Freeborn County residents may even be aware there is a problem with homelessness in the community, said Colette Turcotte of Community Action Agency. Even fewer would know the majority of those homeless are families who are residents of the county.

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&uot;We helped very few transient people here,&uot; Turcotte said. &uot;It’s usually a mother and her children.&uot;

The Community Action Agency tries to find adequate housing for those who need emergency shelter. In some cases, the resident is unable to pay rent and has been evicted. Other cases involve a parent and children fleeing an abusive spouse or other family member.

&uot;Statistically, the majority are children,&uot; Turcotte said.

Focusing on a report that tracked services from October 1998 to June 1999, Turcotte said Community Action Agency assisted 64 households that included 41 men, 46 women and 87 children.

Only 23 households received shelter, including 24 children.

&uot;The rest were turned away. Sixty three children were turned away,&uot; Turcotte said.

Georgia Kaye, a case worker with the Salvation Army, has had similar experiences.

&uot;Emergency shelter is demanding most of our funds right now,&uot; Kaye said.

While the Salvation Army doesn’t have a shelter to use – CAA has one apartment – they do offer financial assistance to those who need emergency shelter. That usually means a night or two in a hotel. They assisted 71 people from Jan. to July 1999.

&uot;Sometimes it’s two, three or four days,&uot; Kaye said. &uot;Most of those people are looking for a job, or waiting for their first paycheck.&uot;

While they can help for a short period of time, there is little available for those who need a home for a month or two.

&uot;(Transitional housing) is something we can’t provide because it’s just not available in this community,&uot; Kaye said.

The CAA shelter offers families a place to stay while they look for affordable and adequate housing. But the shelter is seldom available, and CAA also offers to put clients up in a hotel for a short time.

Both Turcotte and Kaye admit there is little they can do, turning many needy residents away.

&uot;The majority is singles,&uot; Kaye said. &uot;Families with children have access to more services. It’s the singles who fall between the cracks.&uot;

The Salvation Army and CAA pool their resources to help everyone they can and also rely on the Freeborn County Human Services as well.

According to Turcotte, the three agencies are able to help more individuals because of networking.

&uot;We’re interrelated in a lot of ways and try to work together,&uot; said Chris Amdahl, the financial assistance supervisor for the Freeborn County Human Services.

But the county is also limited by what it can do. Amdahl said those requesting help usually need to be a resident of at least 30 days.

&uot;Transients – we really can’t do much for them. Once and a while we can provide them with a bus ticket if they’re stranded here,&uot; Amdahl said.

But for residents who need to find affordable housing, all Amdahl’s office can do is provide a list of landlords and a telephone.

&uot;If they’re going to be without housing and they have no one they can stay with, then we can provide a hotel room,&uot; Amdahl said. The office may also be able to locate funds to help with start-up costs, such as deposit and first month’s rent.

&uot;Transitional housing is a need everywhere, including Freeborn County,&uot; Amdahl said.

Turcotte and Kaye agree transitional housing and emergency shelters are needed to help residents, particularly families with children.

&uot;Because it’s financially impossible meet all the needs of the community, I see this as a community need, not just a need for the Salvation Army,&uot; said Kaye.

Affordable housing is also necessary to keep families in the community, as many move in search of a home.

&uot;We need much more permanent housing here,&uot; Turcotte said. &uot;As we take houses down, we need to replace them.

&uot;These people are just in search of the rural dream – a nice house, maybe a little picket fence, a yard for their kids to play in. It’s what we all want. That’s not asking for too much,&uot; Turcotte said.