Last winter, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban and Development reported that there were nearly 8,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given day in Minnesota. How the number of people without homes will change, in a shaky economic environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is unclear.
If the current need at food shelves is any indicator, the rate of homeless may be higher than ever as temperatures drop.
According to Eric Wilson, a spokesperson for The Food Group, prior to the onset of the pandemic, one in 11 Minnesotans struggled to afford food. Now, the number has increased to one in eight people. The Food Group sources and distributes food to more than 150 area food shelves.
“The Food Group has increased food distribution by 80%, doubling the amount of food going into the community,” said Wilson.
For those struggling to become food secure, other basic necessities are typically just as difficult to procure, like shelter and clothing.
Each winter, Pilgrim Dry Cleaners hosts a Coats for Kids drive, with a goal of keeping children and adults in economically unstable households warm during the coldest months of the year. Each dry cleaning location (there are 26 in the Twin Cities) collects new or gently used coats, hats, mittens and other winter gear in child and adult sizes. The coats are then cleaned and given to local nonprofits, who distribute them.
Davanni’s Pizza has pledged to set up collection boxes at its 22 locations.
To date, 31 organizations across the metro have opted into this year’s drive. This includes countywide initiatives like Avenues for Youth, and local organizations like STEP in St. Louis Park, Closet of Hope in Bloomington, Supplemental Angles of Community Services in Golden Valley, CEAP in Brooklyn Park, and Missions Inc. in Plymouth.
Pilgrim Dry Cleaners spokesperson Laura Dizon said that number is likely to increase by the close of the drive Saturday, Oct. 10.
The Coats for Kids Drive has been a fixture in the Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs for 35 years, and the business has collected 432,000 coats to date. This year, Pilgrim hopes to raise 10,000 coats, though Dizon noted that demand is likely to be much higher. So far, a total of 9,000 coats have been requested from the nonprofits that will distribute the coats.
To help, drop off new or used coats to any Pilgrim Dry Cleaners or Davanni’s Pizza location through Oct. 10.
Financial donations can also be made; and all of the proceeds will be used to purchase coats. Check donations can be made out to Pilgrim Dry Cleaners and mailed to The Rosen Foundation, C/O Pilgrim Dry Cleaners; 3217 85th Ave. N.; Brooklyn Park, MN, 55443.