The urge to help during the pandemic has reached a driveway in Maple Grove.
Richard Bahr, an advocate for the Twin Cities homeless community, organized a small group of people to meet in his driveway on April 6 to pack 100 personal care kits. These kits were distributed to the area homeless community.
“I have been working and serving in the Twin Cities homeless community for the past 13 years,” Bahr said. “I owned and was CEO of a Maple Grove manufacturing company when I began and have since sold the business and have moved to spend more time serving those in need.”
He leads a team that serves a daily breakfast at one of the major homeless shelters in Minneapolis. They have 40 volunteers serving 40,000 meals per year.
Bahr also helps run a nonprofit, Threshold to New Life, which works to reduce homelessness. Founded with his Carla founded in 2013, they use small financial grants to get people past whatever gap they may have.
“We have shifted. Now the majority of our efforts on helping people maintain or acquire housing when having recently experienced homelessness,” he said. “The grants are small, a few hundred dollars and the client must come up with funds of their own or from another organization. We want the client to be engaged in solving the problem. Our most recent survey results indicated that nearly 90% of the families that worked with us were able to maintain their housing.”
Threshold to New Life has recognized that with the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the sparse efforts to aid those in need are hard to do with fewer resources and volunteers.
On the evening of April 6, Bahr had eight people helping him pack 100 care kits, while a few neighbors watched from a safe distance. “We had tables in our driveway and chalk marked locations for each volunteer to stand while packing their kits. All volunteers were masked and gloved.”
The care kits included shampoo, conditioner, a washcloth, soap, tissue, deodorant, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a razor, socks and a comb.
This group of volunteers has also been packing sandwiches and bagged lunches for the past several weeks.
“We have a related ministry that we can distribute those through, as well as we hand them out at our daily breakfast,” Bahr said. “We had some of the hygiene items on hand and purchased others over a few weeks until we had enough to make 100 kits. Some of the product was donated and others we bought.”
He and his volunteers plan to continue packing events on Monday nights in his garage or driveway. “We’ll go back to sandwiches and lunches for a while until we come up with another need,” he said.
In his most recent book, “Those People – The True Character of the Homeless,” Bahr chronicles the stories of his friends who live or did live in the local homeless community who have “remarkable character.” He said they are easy to overlook. In his book, Bahr shares who they are, along with some of his own stories and helpful tips about how to deal with panhandlers.
Follow the Osseo-Maple Grove Press on Facebook @OsseoMapleGrovePress