Guest Column: Shelter is needed in Freeborn County area

Published 11:49 pm Friday, September 22, 2017

Live United by Vicky Helland

The Semcac homeless shelter, located in Albert Lea, will provide temporary housing to homeless individuals and families in one of three shelter units.

Utilizing case management, financial literacy education and other community resources, our shelter staff make every effort to help clients break down barriers to affordable housing and independent living, while providing them with the resources they need to be self-reliant. 

Vicky Helland

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While residing at the shelter, residents work with our staff to create an individualized goal plan to guide their transition from homelessness to secure permanent housing within the community. The occupants must also attend a “Dollars & Sense” financial literacy workshop during their stay. During this workshop, participants learn more about budgeting, savings and spending, credit repair, credit reports, debt reduction and identity theft. 

The shelter manager helps the residents work toward stability by assisting them in securing other resources such as food, transportation, clothing, childcare, job-seeking skills, necessary medical care and permanent housing.

Shelter clients work on obtaining necessary resources and income. Once they are ready to exit the shelter, they are assessed for a program to assist with their deposit and/or first month’s rent.

Case management services also continue for a period of time after leaving the shelter.

Consequently, the homeless shelter is not just emergency housing — this program provides extensive individualized case management to help guide the homeless household to permanent stability in several facets of their lives. 

The homeless shelter gives families a safe place and provides support to move them toward stability. Some of the words families have used to describe their experience with the shelter include grateful, thankful, safe, helpful and hope.

Families that stay in the homeless shelter have no other place to go; some have been living in a tent, an outdoor trailer, a vehicle, an abandoned building, a storage shed, an overcrowded apartment, a mold-infested residence or on the street. The homeless shelter provides time for the households to figure out what they need to do to move back into a permanent home.

The shelter accepts and encourages donations from the community. Monetary gifts are used toward shelter operations, and we also welcome donated items such as furniture, small kitchen appliances, silverware, microwaves, etc. Semcac and the households who utilize the shelter are extremely grateful for donations. Families who stay in the shelter are given the opportunity to collect these items to use in their permanent home. The shelter is funded, in part, by United Way agencies.

Please consider donating to Semcac’s Freeborn County homeless shelter. For more information and to learn more, visit Staff are available to speak to community groups about the shelter and how you can help. Contact the shelter at 507-373-1329.

Vicky Helland works with outreach and emergency staff for Semcac.