In my early years, we only had a black and white television at home. During an unfortunate hospital stay, one of my favorite movies came on tv: The Wizard of Oz. The reason it was memorable was because for the first time, I saw Munchkin City as Dorothy did, in color! Something was different when I watched it this time. As Dorothy wakes from her Land of Oz dream, she realizes all she needed was in her own back yard . . . “there is no place like home.” That night I heard those words with new meaning. I wanted to go home.
Home. Such a simple word, but it brings forth different emotions for different people. Throughout my life I have always known that at the end of the day I have a place to call home. Many in Central Minnesota and around the country are not as fortunate. Homelessness comes in a variety of forms. It is not always the picture of homelessness you think of. It may be someone sleeping on a friend’s couch or a family in a one bedroom hotel room. It may be a place to stay for the night, but what happens the next night and the night after that. There are times when all it takes is one unfortunate circumstance for someone to find themselves in this situation.
Through the United Way of Central Minnesota funding process, 15 agencies applied for funding to assist those experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness. Programs working with youth housing, emergency shelters and transitional housing were all part of the funding process and were seen as vital programming for those facing this experience.
Last week, community agencies came together at the River’s Edge Convention Center to host the 7th annual Project Connect. This resource fair is packed with agencies ready to assist individuals that find themselves staring homelessness in the face. Housing, employment, insurance and county assistance were all available to talk with them on the spot and help them receive resources. From medical checkups to haircuts to jackets, more than 270 individuals left with lunch, warmth and knowledge of the resources were available to them.
When I left the hospital as a three-year-old, excited by the memory of seeing the vibrant colors of the yellow brick road and all of Oz, there was no concern or worry as to where I would be staying that night. There really was no place like home and that is still a privilege I have every day. With the agencies working with homelessness that are funded by United Way of Central Minnesota, and events like Project Connect, our community is working to ensure that everyone, no matter the situation can see that shining road ahead and be one step closer to saying “There’s no place like home”.
Written By: Alexis Lutgen, Community Impact Coordinator