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Press Photo by Lisa Miller Chantel Zeller, coordinator at Dakota Center for Independent Living, and Dickinson resident Marcy Decker listen as other members of the Southwest Homeless Coalition share their ideas for an upcoming event in Dickinson called Project Service Connect and Veterans Stand down during a meeting Thursday at Gate City Bank.

Event designed to help veterans, homeless in Dickinson area

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A 22-year-old man from the south seeking to make his way in the world recently became homeless after a job opportunity in Dickinson went awry.

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"He moved northwest because jobs in the south were scarce and money was tight," said Chantel Zeller, coordinator at Dakota Center for Independent Living in Dickinson.

He was living in his car and was excited for his first day of work, when he found he would be unable to work because he did not have the necessary skills required for the job.

Broke and jobless, the man returned to his car and without enough money to return home and no money or credit for rent, he is in Dickinson until his situation improves, Zeller said.

But change may be on the way as the Southwest Homeless Coalition plans an event in Dickinson geared to help end homelessness.

The event is called Project Service Connect and Veterans Stand Down. It will be held for the first time in Dickinson on Aug. 18 at the Dickinson Recreation Center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

"The event is geared to provide vital services to people experiencing homelessness in a nonjudgmental and welcoming environment," Stark County Veterans Services Officer Leslie Ross said. "It is not a trade show or information fair. We are hoping to really help people."

The day will consist of a free hot lunch from the Elks Lodge from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., free haircuts, free public health screenings, free items and resume' help.

Some give-away items include school supplies, health kits and food (someone will be directing people to the Amen Food Pantry and House of Manna).

The coalition is planning for 200 participants.

"We are seeing a large amount of people without homes," Zeller said. "Many people who are coming to us have lost their homes or will soon be in danger of losing housing due to rent increases."

She estimates, based on reports from six agencies in the Dickinson area, that there are 263 people without homes since October.

"We had 44 adults reported homeless this month," Zeller added.

Michelle Orton, client services director with Community Action in Dickinson, said the Coalition is hosting the event to make those who need services aware of what is offered in the area.

"Having everything in a one-stop shop makes it easy for people to take care of several things at one time," Orton said. "It's just convenient."

She added the hope is to get people the services they need.

"It's a hand up, not a hand out," Zeller said.

Zeller estimates there will be 17 agencies providing services on the Project Service Connect side and 15 for Veterans Stand Down.

The event is all volunteer, Zeller said.

Dickinson Parks and Recreation is donating the use of the Dickinson Recreation Center and the Dickinson State University organization "Students In Free Enterprise" raised money to pay for the meal, Zeller said.

Ross added for Veterans Stand Down, she hopes whatever is not donated will be provided by a grant.

Zeller said the coalition is working toward finding transportation to the event for those who need it.

Veterans wishing to help with the project may contact her at 701-456-7654 and volunteers for Project Service Connect may contact Zeller at 701-483-4363.

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