Organizer: Homeless need care like others

John Mellencamp to lead walk


Editor’s note: This story has been edited to indicate that Def Leppard’s Phil Collen will donate a signed guitar to the event. 

Homelessness is an issue facing most large cities, and Toledo is no exception.

However, Ken Leslie is hoping to change that. If nothing else, he hopes to change the perception of those forced to spend each night on the streets.

Patrons at the Tent City event last year at Civic Center Mall.
Patrons at the Tent City event last year at Civic Center Mall.

Mr. Leslie created Tent City in 1990 to bring awareness to the city’s homeless population.

“It’s a weekend-long festival of compassion that brings the community together every year to be able to show that even the most in need are cared for in this community,” Mr. Leslie said.

The event runs Oct. 21-23 at the Civic Center Mall downtown. Those in need can receive free health screenings, pick out clothing, or sit down for a meal.

Singer John Mellencamp is the honorary mayor of Tent City, and will lead the Veterans Matter Walk at 6 p.m. Friday. The top fund-raiser and a guest will receive free tickets to Mr. Mellencamp’s concert later that night at the Stranahan Theater and meet him after the show.

To register or volunteer for the walk, visit firstgiving.com/​1Matters/​WALK.

Mr. Mellencamp visited Tent City in 2007. He was moved by the outpouring of support, and eventually joined Mr. Leslie’s 1Matters organization, which benefits the homeless and holds events.

“He wants to help us showcase Toledo’s compassion for those in need,” Mr. Leslie said. “The happiest I’ve seen him was when we took him to a shelter in Detroit. There were 75 people in the dining room, and he went around to each and every one of them, shook their hand, and said, ‘Hi, my name’s John. What’s your name?’ ”

Katy Perry, Kid Rock, and Carrie Underwood have also gotten involved with 1Matter's Veterans Matter program. Phil Collen, of Def Leppard, has donated a signed guitar to support Harry Sandler's Veterans Matter fund-raiser Wednesday at Toledo School of the Arts.

The University of Toledo Medical Center (formerly the Medical College of Ohio), ProMedica, and Mercy Health team up on Saturday for health screenings, including mammograms and HIV tests. Haircuts will also be provided.

Mr. Leslie said seven women who received mammograms last year needed significant followup. More than $200,000 worth of services were performed for about $5,000.

Food for Thought is one of several local charitable organizations lending a helping hand to the event. The nonprofit has multiple mobile food pantries stationed around the Toledo area for the needy, and will serve lunch Saturday.

“We will make double the lunches we normally do,” executive director Jill Bungee said. “Each weekend, we distribute between 250 and 350 peanut butter and jelly lunches, and we'll be bringing 700 to Tent City.”

Tent City is a benefit for the homeless, but Ms. Bungee said volunteers also walk away with something positive.

“I think it’s such a powerful experience and really sheds light on the actual plight of a lot of people in our community,” she said. “We’ve always been big supporters of using food as a vehicle to build relationships.”

Contact Jay Skebba at: jskebba@theblade.com, 419-376-9414, or on Twitter @JaySkebbaBlade.