Story By: Glen Alford – Aid For Friends
The 2014 Eighth Annual Aid For Friends Homeless Awareness Encampment will inform the public about homelessness in this area as well as help Aid For Friends celebrate its 31st year of service to Southeastern Idaho.
Aid For Friends will hold their annual encampment Dec. 6-7. Volunteers will sleep in cardboard boxes in probable frigid temperatures at Caldwell Park, eat a “soup kitchen” dinner and keep warm around a burn barrel to remind us all of the plight of the homeless.
Originally a homeless shelter that provided lodging and some meals, Aid For Friends has evolved into a multi-faceted resource center serving many.
The agency was born during the savage Pocatello winter of 1983-84 when one young man froze to death while trying to find shelter in a dumpster and another had a foot amputated because no shelter services operated here.
The encampment’s slogan, “Hope Without a Home,” celebrates the hope that Aid For Friends brings to the homeless.
“This activity raises awareness of how Aid For Friends provides vital services to address the needs of homeless individuals and families facing desperate circumstances,” says AFF Executive Director B.J. Stensland.
Those services illustrate how AFF has evolved. It provides emergency shelter, connects case management to clients with resources to secure employment and medical services, manages transitional housing and offers homeless prevention and rapid rehousing assistance.
In addition to raising awareness, the encampment also raises money to support those services through tax-deductible pledges solicited by its volunteers.
“This is the most significant fundraising event we hold,” Stensland says. “Those wishing to support the project but unable to spend the night might consider sponsoring one of the participants with a donation equal to the cost of a one-night stay in a motel with two meals.”
Donations of any size are welcome. This will be the first year gifts can be made through gofundme.com. Go to http://www.gofundme.com/geqiyo and follow the prompts.
Longtime encampment volunteer Mike Sampson challenges everyone in Southeast Idaho to donate $5 each on gofundme.com.
The 2014 goal is to raise $20,000. Last year, 70 volunteers raised $17,017.
The volunteers will face the same winter weather conditions threatening the homeless, but on Sunday morning they will go home to a warm home, a hot shower and their families. The homeless may have, but are not guaranteed, a bed and meal at the AFF homeless shelter, which operates at near capacity year round.
The encampment actually begins on Friday, Dec. 5, with construction of the base camp from cardboard boxes on loan from Pacific Recycling. The official start is 10 a.m. Saturday, when volunteers move into camp and construct their own shelters from boxes, newspapers and tarps. The resulting camp is much like an emergency camp found in a community with no AFF-type agency to provide a safe haven for the homeless.
Stensland says anyone wishing to look at the encampment is welcome for an hour or two, but those with medical conditions such as diabetes, heart condition or decreased sensation in their extremities should not attempt to stay all night.
Lance Taysom, owner of Caribou Adventures, will provide volunteers with mandatory urban survival training, which is to include personal health, frostbite, hypothermia and emergency preparedness. Heat will be limited to a zero environmental impact fire in a 55-gallon drum.
Boy Scout Troop 315 will prepare and serve a “soup kitchen” dinner Saturday night from ingredients donated by Ridleys Food & Drug and other community members. Butter Burr’s restaurant will provide a biscuits and gravy Sunday breakfast to be served by members of DUI Drug Court. The Salvation Army canteen will provide coffee, hot chocolate and cookies, and the Spudnut Shop and the Popcorn Shop donated snacks.
The American Legion Riders will be Saturday night security. Donations of “camp food” — canned chili, stew, tuna, ham and soup — will be collected at Caldwell Park by the Modern Woodmen of America.
For more information please call, Aid For Friends at 208-232-0178.