A month-long drive to collect personal hygiene items for area homeless people will begin next week.
Help for the Homeless will run from March 3-30, and the donated items will be given to four area agencies to support programs for those in crisis situations.
The agencies which will receive the items are CAP Services, Foundations for Living, Ruby’s Pantry and the Waupaca Area Food Pantry.
“This is the first time it’s being done in Waupaca,” said Robin Madson, executive director of Foundations for Living.
The hygiene drive is being facilitated by The Family, which has radio stations in the Fox Cities and central Wisconsin and has encouraged such collections in communities for more than 20 years, she said.
“This drive will collect products for people coming into our agencies,” Madson said. “Our goal is to supply hygiene products for each of the agencies for the whole year.”
Last year, Foundations for Living was the recipient of funds from the family of radio stations to buy products, which is how she learned about the annual Help for the Homeless.
Last October, the four area agencies began meeting as a group to plan for a collection here.
“Our numbers keep going up and up,” said Kathy Jenner, the food pantry’s volunteer operations manager. “November and December were record numbers.”
She said cuts to the Food Stamp and long-term unemployment programs resulted in an increase in food pantry clients.
“We’re seeing a lot of first-time people coming in and saying, ‘Our hours have been cut. We were just scraping by. Now we need help,’” Jenner said.
She said volunteers at the food pantry are asked if there is a warming shelter in the city – something Foundations for Living seeks to open.
“We do get homeless people coming in to the food pantry,” Jenner said. “A lot of times, they’re referred by Social Services. Others walk in from the street. In the winter, they’re living in cars.”
Madson said several families may group together in one house or let someone who does not have a home sleep on their couch.
Saundra Coyle works in Community Outreach at Foundations for Living, and said in some cases, parents kick a child out of the home when that child turns 18.
That was true for a 20-year-old man she saw get out of a vehicle on U.S. Highway 10 at Fulton Street on the evening of Jan. 29. He had two backpacks and was trying to get to a friend’s house.
Coyle recognized him and gave him a ride to his friend’s house.
Heather Kangas, a domestic abuse victim advocate at CAP Services, said the agency receives a lot of calls from people who are living out of their cars or sleeping on couches. They are looking for resources.
CAP Services and the Salvation Army have crisis centers in Stevens Point. For CAP Services, there are eligibility requirements, such as an eviction notice and living in a car or tent.
At the food pantry, volunteers frequently refer people to area churches for monetary assistance.
“I know of a church in town that has found people sleeping in its garage and has let people sleep in the basement,” Madson said.
She said vouchers allow people to stay at a hotel.
Jenner said personal hygiene items are rare donations the food pantry receives.
They are items clients are often in need of, because they cannot use Food Stamps to get them, she said.
Boxes will be located at businesses and churches throughout the community for people to donate new hygiene items. The sites will include banks, large retailers and grocery stores. Other businesses, such as restaurants in Waupaca and King, will have containers for monetary donations.
There will also be boxes for donated items at the Waupaca Area Public Library, Waupaca Recreation Center, Waupaca Senior Center and Waupaca’s public schools.
Among the most needed items are cleaning supplies, feminine products, bathroom tissue, diapers, baby care items, hair care items, deodorant, dental care, body lotion, laundry soap, garbage bags, paper towels and face and bath soap.
Foundations for Living is also planning its first Hope for the Homeless Banquet, to be held from 6-8 p.m. Thursday, April 10, at the Best Western Banquet Hall.
The cost is $8 and a pair of socks. The featured speaker will be Thomas J. Fuchs, who will talk about his experiences living on the streets in Seattle, in a cardboard box on the University of Minnesota campus and at Holden Village in Washington.
“It’s $8 per person,” Madson said of the banquet, “because if we get the warming shelter, that is the estimated cost per person to run the shelter per night.”
Proceeds from the event will go toward the agency’s quest to end homelessness in Waupaca County.