The perception of homelessness in our country is a concern. It’s not just about mental health and addiction, and it definitely does not just affect victims of domestic violence.
“The idea of homelessness is very skewed,” said Theresa Hiuser, the interim executive director of the Elliot Lake Women’s Group.
Her team is ready to break that stigma.
She wants people to understand that being homeless doesn’t fit just one idea. There are many scenarios of homelessness and one doesn’t trump another.
The goal of Hiuser and her team is to educate people and create awareness.
She wants to “redefine the definition of homelessness.”
Maplegate and Larry’s Place are the only shelters in our local area and, more often than not, run at full capacity.
Hiuser says that it’s not just individuals; it’s families.
“It’s people in our community that have had something happen to them,” she said.
Sometimes they seek refuge at a shelter, but it’s common for people to live in their vehicles, tents or trailers. Sometimes they just need the shelter to help with food, laundry and personal hygiene.
One of Maplegate’s clients is asking her teenage daughter to participate in this challenge.
Melanie, a single mom who is currently classified as homeless, is using the shelter to get back on her feet. She thinks her daughter needs a lesson in being grateful for the support they have. Without Maplegate, they would not have a roof over their heads.
Homeless people often have jobs and vehicles. They have personal belongings. People would not always recognize someone who may be experiencing homelessness.
They could have been forced to leave a rented home when the owner took possession, or maybe they are victims of gender-based violence.
Society doesn’t need to know the details of every specific situation.
Hiuser needs the community to understand that these vulnerable individuals are still considered homeless. The shelters provide these services and other resources to help them regain stability.
The ultimate goal right now for the team at Elliot Lake Women's Group (Maplegate) is to raise enough funds to keep Larry’s Place running.
Its future is uncertain since there is no government funding.
During the pandemic, funding was available due to the country's crisis. It’s gone now.
“How do we go back to how it was when we now know how many men Larry’s Place helps,” Hiuser said.
She told ElliotLakeToday that her staff so far has raised $4,000 from collecting pledges locally. Its GoFundMe page has also raised $820.
The money raised via the City of Elliot Lake website will be released once the challenge is complete.
Elliot Lake Mayor Dan Marchisella has joined the efforts to raise funds for and awareness of the plight of the homeless in Ellio Lake. As reported earlier, he accepted Hiuser's challenge to live like a person without a home for a night and raised it to a week.
As of Monday, he had not yet met his fundraising goal.
He and the shelter staff set up their homeless sites on Monday starting around 10 a.m. They are at the former Algo Mall property.
They encourage people to come and see them throughout the week at this location.
People can also donate cash directly to the mayor by visiting his homeless site.