Fighting Homelessness in the NEK

mealforamissionBURKE- RuralEdge, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting poverty in the Northeast Kingdom, partnered up with QBurke Mountain Resort to host the third annual "Meal for a Mission", an event dedicated to fighting homelessness. 

Meal for a Mission is one of the many events a part of RuralEdge's "Rural Reality Campaign", which bring attention to homeless in the NEK and all throughout Vermont. Participants could enjoy a three-course meal with all proceeds helping those that are homeless around the area. Tables were neatly set up with glasses, folded napkins, and several statistics on what the event is about. 

Shortly before 6 p.m., people started to arrive. Dan Haycook, the Community Engagement Specialist for RuralEdge, helped the guests as they entered. Haycook is proud to help out for the event, and wants more people to be aware about the issue.

“We understand that housing is first. Without knowing where your head is resting at night, it’s hard to think of anything else, so the purpose of this event is to raise awareness on the issue of homelessness in our community, because it is a very serious issue”, Haycook says.

Of the 87 attendees, one of the first to arrive was Connie Sandahl, the executive director Northeast Kingdom Youth Services. She knows the work RuralEdge does for the community, and is more than happy to help out.

“I think it’s the idea of being able to collect funds that we know are gonna be used exclusively to meet the needs of those who are homeless, and I know RuralEdge is very dedicated to the work that they do with homeless individuals, families and youth, and adults, so I’m proud to be a part of it”, Sandahl says.

The NEKYS is partners with RuralEdge, and even though this is Sandahl’s first time attending a Meals for a Mission event, she is well aware of the problem as she too works with homeless individuals.

“We work with a lot of homeless and runaway youth in our organization, so this is a subject that’s very near and dear to me, and it’s something that is very important that we address as a community. That each community takes responsibility for the members of the community that have no place to live. We’ve been working on it in Saint Johnsbury, I know Lyndonville has been working on it, and we’re all working hard to make sure that the needs of the people from out communities are met”, Sandahl explains.

As the attendees found their seats, the CEO of RuralEdge had a few words to say. Trisha Ingalls has only been the CEO for a few years, but has a personal connection with homelessness. She began by giving numbers, then explaining the importance those numbers had in her life.

“So the first number I’d like to share is twenty one. That is how old I was when I found myself unexpectedly homeless in a big city. The second number is five. That’s how many months pregnant I was with my first child, who is now a beautiful daughter. The third number is three. That’s how many years I was into my post-secondary studies at the time. That was a hard time for me”, Ingalls shares with the attendees.

In Vermont, there are 1523 homeless people, with nearly 19% being children and 5% being veterans, according to RuralEdge’s website. The website also reports that 256 homeless people are victims are domestic violence. 

Overall, around $1500 was raised, and all the proceeds went directly towards fighting homelessness in the NEK, and all throughout Vermont.

If you are interested in RuralEdge, click here.

RuralEdge is hosting many more events throughout the spring and into the summer. For a list of events in the NEK, click here.