Updated: December 11, 2020 11:27 PM
Created: December 11, 2020 09:52 PM
(ABC 6 News) - Remember the abandoned warehouse fire in Albert Lea last week? Fire officials say squatters may have started it. It's creating more awareness about an issue the city is already facing.
According to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, almost 8,000 people are homeless in Minnesota. In Albert Lea, there's one agency working to help homeless families and individuals find a place to stay.
"One of my first thoughts was gosh, did they know about us?" Linda Lares, cultural diversity specialist for SEMCAC said.
Lares says the homeless population is expanding in Albert Lea and it needs to be addressed, especially after the warehouse fire.
"Even if they knew about us, how would they access it if they don't have those tools. If they don't have a phone or if they don't have internet," Lares said.
The agency offers a wide variety of emergency assistance for people, especially for the homeless.
One of its key services is that they have three apartments at the Freeborn County Homeless Shelter where people can stay up to 90 days, free of charge.
"Once they're in the homeless shelter they are assisted with intense case management. When I say case management it's not like the timeline expires and they just get out, no we work with them the whole time to find good, safe, secure housing when they leave the shelter," Lares said.
SEMCAC also has other services such as a re-housing program and one-time assistance with rent payments, but Lares says there's still a lot of need in the community and a lot of work to be done.
"It's a challenge of finding affordable housing because you're not going to set someone up in a new apartment or house. It's not cost-effective for them or the program that's going to assist them. There are very limited resources in the region. It's kind of holding its own but of course, we can always use more," Lares said.
Even though times are tough, she wants to help as many families as she can, "The many phone calls and the many replies and the many thank yous when we are able to assist a homeless family, a family in crisis, I am so blessed to be able to say yes we can help you."
For every dollar raised for SEMCAC, Bell Lumber and Pole in Albert Lea will donate $2 to help the homeless.
Click here for information on how to donate.
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