United Way launches 9 Ways to Live United campaign

People involved in the United Way’s “9 Ways to Live United in 2009” campaign raised $13,662 to fight homelessness June 26.

Fundraisers teamed up with St. Stephen’s Human Services in the Whittier neighborhood for the first event scheduled in United Way’s new campaign to call on community support to fight hunger, family violence and expand early learning opportunities for children. The group surpassed their fundraising goal of $9,000.

People involved in the kick-off event on June 26 met at St. Stephen’s Human Services in the morning and then gathered in the evening at a benefit concert at First Avenue. Nine representatives of various United Way initiatives were charged with raising at least $1,000 for the campaign. They used a variety of creative fundraising strategies, said Ami Cervin, an events planner for the Greater Twin Cities United Way. One student played music on Nicollet Mall and collected donations, another organized a cell phone text message fundraising campaign and someone else organized the benefit concert.

With the proceeds raised, at least three Twin Cities families will be able to move out of the homeless shelter and into stabling housing. The money will be split between St. Stephen’s Human Services and the YWCA of St. Paul.

Jeff Noodle, CEO of SUPERVALU Inc. and chair of the United Way campaign, said the kickoff event was designed to show people how they can help make a difference through social networking or volunteering.

“There are many in our community who are experiencing homelessness for the first time and others who have been on the fringes for a while. At the same time, there are people who are willing and able to help, but aren’t sure how,” he said.

“With the difficult challenges facing the greater Twin Cities in these tough economic times, we need to approach the campaign in a different light. It can’t be business-as-usual. Now, more than ever, we need the support of the entire community. We all need to extend a hand to those who are seeking help.”

It takes roughly $4,500 to get a family of four into stable housing, said Andrea Ferstan, United Way’s Meeting Basic Needs Program Manager, in a prepared statement about the
9 Ways campaign.

That amount covers first and last month’s rent, a security deposit and other basic needs to get the family settled.

“Homelessness is increasing due to rising unemployment coupled with a foreclosure crisis. The economic environment and the lack of affordable rental housing has resulted in a growing number of homeless families,” Ferstan said.  

In Hennepin County, there were 21 percent more families turning to shelters in 2008 than in 2007, according to figures cited by the United Way. There was also a 33 percent increase in the number of days families stayed at the shelter. On any given night, 9,200 adults and 600 unaccompanied youth are homeless in the state.

In July, the “9 Ways to Live United in 2009” campaign will focus on efforts to improve youth literacy. A large community celebration for the campaign is also in the works for Sept. 9.

Get involved

For more information or to participate in the 9 Ways campaign, visit the website — liveunitedtc.org.