Now, more than ever, homelessness isn't all that far off for some.
Layoffs, gas prices, housing expenses - many people are struggling to stay afloat during this time of economic uncertainty.
New Pathways helps homeless families get back on their feet. Since it opened its Brainerd site in August 2005, it has served more than 80 families by helping them find housing and jobs.
Richard Mettler, New Pathways Brainerd Site's executive director, said homelessness in central Minnesota - Crow Wing, Cass, Morrison, Todd and Wadena Counties - is a growing problem.
"Expenses have gone up, but incomes haven't," he said.
New Pathways is hosting Tent City, an event to raise homelessness awareness and funds for the program. Tent City participants are asked to collect donations before the event and will camp overnight in tents outside the Brainerd Armory on Oct. 24.
Sandy and 6-year-old Destiny recently moved into their new home after fleeing an abusive situation in the Twin Cities. They were homeless for months, but got assistance from local programs including the Women's Center of Mid-Minnesota and New Pathways. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"People will experience a little bit of what its like to be homeless," Mettler said. "It's going to be cold, but we'll make it fun and educational, too."
Christian band Silverline will provide entertainment and there will be games, a scavenger hunt, movies and bingo throughout the night. Mettler hopes 200 people will camp out for the event, which is expected to be an annual endeavor.
"The event is going to be fun and eye-opening," he said.
In central Minnesota, homeless people often stay in tents in campgrounds, sleep in cars or stay with friends and family members, Mettler said.
New Pathways clients are often in situational poverty - meaning a situation, like divorce or a medical problem, has changed the family's financial position. Many women and children fleeing domestic abuse also are referred to New Pathways from the Women's Center of Mid-Minnesota.
Sandy and her 6-year-old granddaughter Destiny were referred to New Pathways after a month-long stint at the women's shelter. They fled an abusive situation, living in several shelters around the state while hiding from Sandy's abusive ex-boyfriend.
"We left with nothing but the clothes on our backs," Sandy said.
What: Spend a night camping outside the Brainerd Armory to help fight homelessness by raising money for New Pathways.
When: Oct. 24-25. Setup begins at 4 p.m. Oct. 24, followed by dinner, games, a program and a performance by Christian band Silverline.
Registration: Deadline is Oct. 17. Register by calling New Pathways at (218) 454-0460 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Sandy and Destiny stayed in the New Pathways program, sleeping in different churches around the area and spending days at the Brainerd day center while looking for permanent housing. They moved into their home two weeks ago, and Sandy couldn't be more proud of her house and belongings, all donated from places like Dorcas and Salem WEST.
"I haven't had a home this nice, I haven't had furniture this nice," Sandy said. "Everything's turned out better than I could have dreamed."
Sandy, a former over-the-road truck driver, suffers from many health problems and has trouble walking, forcing her to use a wheelchair. She's had custody of Destiny since the girl was 2 years old.
"She's my baby," she said of her granddaughter. "My main priority is taking care of her."
Sandy and Destiny are starting a new life and they thank New Pathways and the Women's Center of Mid-Minnesota for it.
"They are excellent people," Sandy said. "They really made me feel at home. There's not enough words to describe how great they are."
HEIDI LAKE may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5879.
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