Church tries to fill needs of homeless PDF Print E-mail
Written by BILL RYAN Sentinel Religion Editor   
Friday, 08 November 2013 11:03
Bob Rex (left), fills a backpack with supplies, as minister Lynn Kerr (right) works to separate supplies. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
With winter fast approaching, there will be local people who will not have adequate shelter in Bowling Green and other areas. One congregation is seeking to assist those displaced or homeless with some basic needs.
People of faith often see a problem and look for positive ways to address it. Such is the case of the new "Backpacks -N- Bags for the Homeless" project which has been launched by the Maumee Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Bowling Green.
The congregation is collecting new and used backpacks and sleeping bags, and items to fill the backpacks for homeless persons who need to live or sleep outdoors.
Rev. Lynn Kerr, the minister at MVUUC, said this effort is inspired, in part, by the recently held Project Homeless Connect effort, and her personal experience with a young pregnant woman who could not find shelter.
"Our congregation wants to help those who are unable to find shelter," Kerr said.
Even with the assistance of churches and other social agencies, some people will not have a place to stay.
"We, as pastors, often get calls for assistance or shelter and the first reaction is to want to bring them to your home," she said. She quickly noted that good judgment would keep that from happening on a practical basis.
A more viable second choice would be to fund a motel for the person in need.
Kerr said even when funds are available for such a solution, there can be issues. Kerr says some hotels/motels will not allow those under 21 to stay, even if they have a cash payment from a church or other agency.
"The excuse they give is that they have had problems with rooms being trashed by younger guests," Kerr said. "They have said 'no' to me and to other pastors."
Thus, recently, when Kerr received a call from the 18-year-old pregnant woman who was homeless because her family had kicked her out. Despite her situation, and the pleas of the minister, the motels would not let her stay.  
Kerr lost contact with that woman, but her situation is not unique. Kerr said she did not want to be left without options the next time such a situation arises.
After telling the story to one of her members, Bruce Jeffers, a Bowling Green City Council member, Jeffers introduced her to one of the pastors at Broken Chains Church in Bowling Green. Kerr was shown the backpacks that Broken Chains Church put together for similar situations. She went home with a sleeping bag and a full backpack to use as a prototype.
Assistant Pastor Robert Grogan of Broken Chains said their church last year collected items for the homeless. They collected personal care items, placed them in backpacks and handed them out on the streets of Bowling Green last December.
"We hit the streets and handed the goods out to those people in desperate need of help. There are homeless in Bowling Green," he said.
He said they distributed roughly 20 to 25 backpacks and hope to provide even more this year.
"There are a lot of couch-hoppers out there and they are considered homeless," Grogan added.
Even though they may be staying with friends, they still need supplies and food and other items.
Thus Kerr and others are launching the program to collect backpacks, sleeping bags and goods to fill the packs from now until Dec. 15.
The sleeping bags and backpacks can certainly be used ones in good condition, as she says, "in the spirit of recycling." Items to be included with the packs can be found on the accompanying list.
Items can be donated to MVUUC at its location at 20189 N. Dixie Highway (Ohio Route 25, north of Bowling Green) or to Main Street Photo at 157 N. Main in downtown Bowling Green. Broken Chains will also accept donations at the Thrift Store across from the church in the Woodland Mall during its business hours Tuesday through Saturdays.
Completed bags from the MVUUC program will be donated to area churches that wish to have them on hand for distribution as the need arises. Broken Chains will attempt to go out and find those in need.
Kerr and the congregation are also exploring long-term plans beyond any initial distribution of the sleeping bags and backpacks.
Kerr noted they have been made aware that some students at Bowling Green State University become homeless during school breaks. The congregation has a desire to address those needs in its future efforts.
The two congregations have slightly different focuses but will be working together to serve those in need.

Items sought for backpacks
Area congregations are gathering sleeping bags, backpacks and supplies to fill the backpacks which will be made available for those who may be homeless.
The items listed to be included in the backpacks was compiled after discussions with those who have been or are currently homeless as to what would be the "ideal" contents for those needing to sleep outdoors.
Trial sizes or hotel size products are perfect as people will be carrying all of these items.
The wish list of needs to serve the homeless include:
• Food related items
- Non-perishable food including canned goods, preferably with peel back top)
- Bottled water
- Gift card for groceries
- Can opener*
- Granola bars (high fiber)    
- Lollipops
- Snacks (individually wrapped crackers, raisins, nuts, etc.)
- Water bottle
• Health care (cleaning) needs:
- Antibiotic cream
- Adhesive bandages
- Body lotion
- Lip balm
- Pain relievers
• Hygiene (travel size):
- Comb/brush
- Deodorant
- Feminine products
- Hand sanitizer   
- Hand towel   
- Liquid soap (multi-purpose)
- Razor/shaving cream
- Tissues
- Toothbrush and paste/mouthwash/dental floss
- Wipes (pre-moistened)
• For warmth:
- Hand warmers
- Lighter (not matches)
- Scarf/hat/gloves
- Sleeping bag*
• Other:
- Backpacks*
- Zipper storage bags (assorted sizes)
- Pens/pencils
- Small notebooks
*Please note that items such as backpacks and sleeping bags need not be new, just clean and in good repair. Boxes of items can be separated into bundles and put in plastic bags (e.g. 10 adhesive bandages per bag).
Last Updated on Friday, 08 November 2013 12:31

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