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Needs Drive helps unsheltered individuals 

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Students volunteering at the event (Nick Tennis, Alex Samolinski, Owen Bernstorf)

As winter is upon us, imagine for a moment not having a warm home to go to every night. Unfortunately, this is the reality for many individuals in La Crosse. This inspired one of Viterbo’s seniors, Noah Nelson, to make a difference through a partnership with Independent Living Resources, a local organization supporting the homeless population, to host a needs drive for unsheltered individuals.  

 

Nelson, a sports management and leadership major, organized this event. He and a few friends distributed 500 flyers to bring awareness to this drive. People donated hand warmers, foil blankets, gloves, toiletries, hand sanitizer, mini flashlights and other items people may not have access to. It was a drop-off event, with the option for door side pickup. During the one-month period from Nov. 17 to Dec. 17, people could place items outside their doorstep to be collected at a reserved time. Pickup time reservations were made through a Google Form. The main collection day was Dec. 2, when student volunteers accepted donations at the Fine Arts Center Atrium from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  

 

“Once people bring in supplies, we put them in drawstring bags that Independent Living Resources provides,” Nelson said when asked about how supplies will reach those in need. “Then, throughout the day, Michael Fitzpatrick, an ILR Homeless Outreach Specialist comes to collect the goods. They organize and distribute them in groups with other local organizations that provide Narcan, health services, water, etc. I went with for a distribution day in the spring, and it was eye opening to say the least.” 

 

This is the second time Nelson has been able to put on a needs drive for the homeless. Last semester, he partnered with another local organization called Couleecap to collect donations. This partnership started when Noah decided to write a feature article for the Lumen on homelessness in La Crosse. 

 

“I have grown up around La Crosse and I had never known it to have an abundance of homeless people. When I came to Viterbo, I noticed more and more people in the parks and on the streets. So, when I started writing for the Lumen, I decided to write a feature on the homelessness epidemic and interviewed a woman from Couleecap. She, Becky Koske, recommended that students interested in making a difference should start a drive. That following semester, I had to do 25 community service hours for a class and decided that I would try to start a drive with Couleecap’s help,” Nelson explained.  

 

Nelson would like more people to be aware of the system of chronic homelessness in La Crosse. He said, “Once someone becomes chronically homeless, they are ostracized from society and ‘barriers’ are put up to prevent their re-entry. The state is not doing enough to help, and the social burden has befallen the people.” 

 

Winter is hard on everyone, but it is especially difficult for unsheltered individuals. By donating to the needs drive, the residents of La Crosse are able to help make a difference in the lives of these individuals.  

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Sailor Zarecki, Campus Life Editor
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