Drive set to help others
by Rory Doyle
Dec 26, 2012 | 703 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Leaders at the Volunteers In Service To America in Cleveland have begun a donation drive to help with the national problem of homelessness.

The VISTA program is collecting goods to put together hygiene/snack packs, which will be distributed late January during the National Point in Time Count of People Experiencing Homelessness.

The count is mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for communities across the country to receive funding and gain more knowledge about local homeless populations.

Volunteers with VISTA will distribute the care packs when coming across the homeless during the count.

"Homelessness goes well beyond the typical idea we visualize — sleeping on a bench, on the street or in an abandoned building," said VISTA Director Linda Stringfellow. "Some people don't realize the homeless in Bolivar County because there are different classifications of what homelessness means.

"A family's house might burn down, a women may be abused and have to leave the home, some people lose their jobs and end up in shelters — these are different aspects of homelessness that need to be counted so we can better meet their needs."

Service providers of the homeless nationwide will choose one day at the end of January to count people in their communities who are living on the street, emergency shelters, transitional housing or domestic violence shelters.

Those interested in participating in the local count can contact Stringfellow at 846.4538. The exact date of a count in the Delta should be determined by the end of the week.

In the meantime, donors can begin dropping off their snacks and hygiene products to Stringfellow on Jan. 7 through Jan. 18 at the Center for Community and Economic Development at 1417 College St. in Cleveland.

The office will be closed until Jan. 7 due to the holidays.

Items sought for the care packs are desired to be travel size and easily portable. These items include: hygiene products, socks, blankets, tissues, hand sanitizer, first-aid kits, small snacks and quart size Ziploc bags.

Stringfellow said donors don't necessarily have to purchase their own donations, but can also seek products from hotels, doctor and dentist offices, clubs, fraternities, sororities, churches, etc.

"As we get closer to the annual celebration of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service (Jan. 21), we hope to gain a lot of support from the local community," added Stringfellow.

This year VISTA is reaching out to its sponsoring programs and members to get involved in canvassing for the count.

"Not only will the donations go a long way to those who need the support, but the count will also help us develop a more effective plan for measuring and ending homelessness in the Delta," said Stringfellow.

For more information on VISTA, visit www.americorps.gov/about/programs/vista.asp.