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‘Hearts in the Park’ event aims to help homeless in La Crosse area

Published: Sep. 1, 2020 at 6:39 PM CDT
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) -

COVID-19 has impacted all of our lives in one way or another--the homeless population is no exception.

Tuesday’s first-ever ’Hearts in the Park’ in La Crosse had a humble beginning.

“What started as a two-nurse organization has now grown into an over 40-volunteer community-wide event bringing healthcare, food, and much needed medical aid to our hearts in the park,” said Katie Cramer, the ’Hearts in the Park’ founder.

Those hearts are the area’s unsheltered population.

Two local nurses discovered area shelters have been operating at half capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of those nurses, Katie Cramer, says resources have also dwindled.

This puts ’Hearts in the Park’ in position to offer several necessities to the roughly 100 people homeless in La Crosse.

“[We are offering] blood pressure checks, providers, physician assistants, foot and wound care, over 100 donated meals, hygiene bags that include deodorant, soap, toiletries,” Cramer added.

PPE, haircuts and addiction resources were also provided.

The community was encouraged to drop off any donations curbside- helping to make ’Hearts in the Park’ a one-stop shop.

“Many of the unsheltered community doesn’t have the means of transportation to get to each appointment and so now we’ve come up with an event to bring it all together,” Cramer explained.

The Salvation Army says COVID-19 has led to an increase in people experiencing homelessness, however, it’s not from evictions like some people may think.

“It’s more the population that was staying with their family or couch-surfing that were no longer welcome to be couch-surfing or staying with those individuals,” said Krista Coey, Social Services director for Salvation Army of La Crosse County. “A lot of families were less willing to let people come in and out of their homes during a pandemic.”

Coey says it’s a call to action for the community, as the homeless population is underfunded and monetary donations as well as winter supplies are needed.

With COVID-19 still a threat, new ways are being developed to safely isolate and screen newcomers to the shelter.

Events like Tuesday’s warm Coey’s heart with the outreach potential.

“Here at the Salvation Army the resources that are offered today at this event are resources that we offer 365 days a year within our facility,” Coey explained.

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