Five people or groups will be running for five segments of the homeless population next week to raise funds for Coordinated Assistance Ministries (CAM) and awareness of homelessness.
The event, dubbed “5K for $5,000,” takes place during national Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week from Nov. 16 to 20. During that week, videos and educational information also will be posted on the “CAM Hope” Facebook page. According to Dennine Smith, the executive director of CAM, the funds will go a long way in helping support those in the area facing homelessness and shining a light on the issue.
“One of the hopes is that people can get an understanding of what it’s like, what it would be like for someone who found themselves in a situation where they were homeless,” Smith said. “We’re hoping to make this an event that really helps people to get more understanding and also just to let people know that it’s something that people are going through, and it really affects different facets of the population in different ways.”
To highlight those different segments of the population affected by homelessness, each runner or group on each day will be running to represent a different segment. On Monday, Nov. 16, Kokomo Mayor Tyler Moore is running in honor of families. On Tuesday, Nov. 17, area teachers are running in honor of children. On Wednesday, Nov. 18, Howard County Commissioner Paul Wyman is running for individuals in recovery. On Thursday, Nov. 19, IU Kokomo’s cross country and track team is running in honor of youth and young adults. And on Friday, Nov. 20, U.S. Air Force Veteran Anita Upchurch is running for homeless veterans.
Each person or group has been challenged to raise $1,000, and donations can be made to each of those people or groups before or during Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week.
Smith is confident the fund-raising goal will be met.
“We really want to try to at least meet our goal, but I feel like with the excitement of the folks that are runners, they’ve really been into it and really been striving to reach out to people, let people know what they’re doing. They’re really excited about doing this project, so I am confident that we’re going to really be able to exceed our goal,” Smith said.
The funds will go a long way for the nonprofit, as COVID-19 resulted in the cancellation of two of CAM’s major fund raisers, Nelson’s Chicken Dinner and the Grate American Sleepout.
During the pandemic, homelessness has become even more challenging. CAM requires people to be screened due to COVID-19 safety precautions, and Smith said many simply don’t want to deal with it and choose not to go into shelter.
“That has been something that I think may have changed the number of people that might be able to come into the shelter … That has been kind of challenging because that means people are having to find other places to be,” said Smith.
An asset during this time, however, has been an isolation center that the county opened in May for the homeless to quarantine due to COVID-19. Smith said while there haven’t been many positive cases of COVID-19 at CAM, the isolation center has been used frequently for homeless people to quarantine while awaiting test results.
Without the isolation center, Smith said CAM’s residents wouldn’t have a place to quarantine otherwise. The center is set to close Nov. 30.
“I’m really happy that we were able to be a part of that project because it really did help a lot. It helped the shelters in town be able to stay open because, as with our situation, we just don’t have the space to quarantine clients in the event that they start displaying symptoms and were waiting for test results,” Smith said.
While the isolation center, located at 625 N. Union St., is set to close at the end of the month, Smith has her eyes on it as a possible new home for CAM – something she encouraged people to keep in mind as they consider donating to the 5K for $5,000.
Smith said the CAM building has been outgrown, and more space is needed to assist the area’s homeless population.
“We do want to, in the future, expand the services that we’re able to offer, and we really have gotten to the point in our current building that we are just really out of storage space and don’t have enough office space. It’s really just time for us to move into another facility,” she said. “We want to be able to serve our clients better and more appropriately, so having a facility that allows us to have the ability to do that is really important.”
According to the 2020 Point-in-Time Count, a count of sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness on a single night in January, there were 175 homeless individuals from 144 households in Region 5, which included Howard, Cass, Miami, and Wabash. Of those figures, 77 percent were reported from Howard County.
To participate in the 5k for $5,000, donate to any of the runners, mail a check to P.O. Box 523 Kokomo 46903, or donate via PayPal at www.camhope.org.