By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes
A homeless services group is leading a parade to raise awareness about homelessness.
And it will pass right through the center of Keizer. The Walk for Hope kicks off at 9 a.m. Saturday, June 11, and will wind from the Union Gospel Mission offices at 345 Commercial Street NE to Simonka House, a women’s shelter at 5119 River Road N. in Keizer.
It’s the centerpiece of the Summer of Hope campaign. While wintertime often draws the most attention to homelessness, those without stable housing still need help during summer months when donations lag, said Donor Relations Manager Cheryl Dixon.
“It’s a year-round issue,” Dixon added. “We want to make people aware that the homeless still have needs, even when the weather is normal.”
Union Gospel Mission, a Christian organization, tasks itself with “meeting the needs of the homeless and hungry in Marion and Polk counties, and to offer them hope to change their lives. We really want to get people in our doors and meet their emergency needs so we can help them figure out their barriers to housing and help them overcome those.”
You can still register for the walk for $25 by calling 503-362-3983 or visiting ugmsalem.org.
Door prizes include gift certificates for Figaro’s Pizza, haircut and color from Escape Salon, and other prizes like a radio advertising package and gym membership.
The group needs more support than ever as it’s being tasked with helping more people than ever before. Union Gospel Mission is serving 40 percent more meals and providing 30 percent more beds since September 2010. However, Mike Rideout, UGM’s president and chief executive officer, said economic downturns don’t affect UGM’s target population like one might think.
“While some of this increase is economy-driven, particularly among single men who may only have part-time work now and are struggling to make ends meet … we serve a population that in general is not severely affected by economic downturn,” Rideout said. “They have struggled with long-term additions, homelessness and/or incarceration not generally affected by the economy.”
In addition to immediate and longer-term services for men and women in crisis, they also provide clothing, furniture and household goods to the community’s needy.