What was once known as the Morrison County Interfaith Hospitality Network is now moving north, changing its name, but not its focus.
The program, serving homeless families with children in Morrison, Crow Wing, Todd, Wadena and Cass counties, will be relocating to Brainerd in late April to better serve those in need.
Much of the interest in the Little Falls-based program was coming from homeless families in Crow Wing County, prompting the program to be moved to Brainerd.
Now called New Pathways IHN Brainerd Site, staff from the Morrison County IHN will relocate to Brainerd. The program will continue to serve the five-county area and offer the same services.
"Most of the calls we're getting are from Crow Wing County," said Richard Mettler, New Pathways program manager and family educator. "We're far more accessible in Brainerd. Brainerd is a hub to a lot of people."
Until the Brainerd site opens this spring, families will be served in Little Falls.
Seventeen Brainerd area churches have volunteered to host homeless families overnight one week at a time. Host churches provide hospitality, sleeping accommodations and three meals a day for families.
The Rev. Mark Skinner, pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Brainerd and co-chairperson of the Brainerd site committee, said by volunteering people will gain empathy and homelessness awareness.
"(They'll develop) a greater understanding of what homelessness looks like in the Brainerd lakes area," Skinner said. "It's sometimes hidden or masked, but it's real."
During the day, parents and young children will be taken to the day center, a house on Sixth Street, formerly used as offices by the Brainerd School District. At the day center, parents work with case managers to help with job hunting, financial and housing issues. Family educators are also on hand to teach life and parenting skills.
In 2006, 26 homeless families were helped - 130 individuals - with the average age of adults being 30 and children 6 years old. Numbers are expected to increase when the program is moved to Brainerd.
Cheryl Gray, New Pathways executive director, said people in central Minnesota struggle to make enough money to afford transportation, the cost of having children and meeting the needs of the housing market (owning or renting).
"It becomes a vicious cycle," she said.
Churches or individuals interested in volunteering or donating to New Pathways IHN Brainerd Site should contact Mettler at (320) 632-0009.
The Interfaith Hospitality Network is a national organization created in New Jersey 1986 to provide shelter, meals and support to homeless families. IHN programs are now found in most states across the country. New Pathways is a Minnesota organization that oversees the Isanti County IHN, serving Isanti, Chisago, Pine, Kanabec and Mille Lacs counties and the Morrison County IHN.
HEIDI LAKE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5879.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.