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Published: Friday, 10/26/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Downtown event aims to help the homeless beat the streets

BY MIKE SIGOV
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Rocky the Rocket and Rocksy will walk alongside Freddie and Frieda in downtown Toledo today.

The University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University mascots will help kick off Tent City, an annual event that is a “one-stop shop” of services with the goal “to get at least one more person off the streets,” said Leryc Barber, 43, of Toledo.

Mr. Barber is the chairman of the volunteer team for 1Matters, which aims to move homeless people in the Toledo area into their own living spaces.

With a theme of “Community! Unity!,” Tent City is held annually at downtown’s Civic Center Mall; it starts at 6 p.m. today with a 1Mile Matters Walk. The one-mile trek, with a theme of “Walk of Compassion,” will proceed from Promenade Park back to the Civic Center Mall, where tents went up Thursday and will remain until Sunday.

The Tent City program will feature free services such as medical checkups, foot care, HIV tests, flu shots, and dental care. Organizers said residents have collected enough new or gently used winter clothing to serve the needy during the event.

Volunteers at the event, which began in 1990, will work to aid anyone who needs a birth certificate, a driver’s license, or a state-issued identification card — the documents one needs to get a job or housing. The goal is to have these issued during the event or by the end of the year, according to Ken Leslie, founder of 1Matters.

Tables will be set up with information from area shelters, the United Way 2-1-1 hotline, the Veterans Administration Health Center for Homeless Veterans, the Lucas County Veterans Services Commission, Cherry Street Mission Ministries, Legal Aid of Western Ohio Inc., and Advocates for Basic Legal Equality Inc., Mr. Leslie said.

The four top fund-raisers for the walk will get free tickets to concerts and meet-and-greet opportunities with Justin Bieber, Carrie Underwood, and ZZ Top. All shows will be next month in Detroit, with the exception of ZZ Top, who will perform Nov. 1 at the Stranahan Theater in South Toledo.

Chuck Rook, 37, of the Old West End, a U.S. Postal Service local supervisor in Perrysburg, will be helping to coordinate the program. He said he volunteers for 1Matters because “it fills my bucket.”

“It lets me love people that matter,” Mr. Rook said. “And everybody needs love. And everybody needs to matter.”

The event concludes Sunday with a pancake breakfast for the homeless.

In Findlay, the Hancock County Housing Consortium, other social service agencies, organizations, schools, and businesses will host a one-day satellite event similar to the one in Toledo on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. 1Matters, Project Connect will be held at the D.O.C.K. and St. Mark’s Church, South Main Street and Lima Avenue.

“Findlay’s satellite event has become the model event for awareness and service in smaller rural communities. Events like this provide lasting community collaborations,” Mr. Leslie said.

This is the third year for the Findlay event, which offers most of the same services as Toledo’s, and organizers say the need has only increased.

For more information about Tent City or to sign up as a volunteer, go to www.1Matters.org.

Contact Mike Sigov at: sigov@theblade.com or 419-724-6089.



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