Excess food and items left by generous individuals for Peoria's population experiencing homelessness at sites where they gather is actually creating a new issue--things are going to waste.
LULA Peoria provides street support and peer advocacy for people currently experiencing housing or food insecurity in central Illinois.
However, Jessica McGhee, co-founder and outreach worker for LULA, said that while people’s hearts are in the right place, the excessive donations recently left at encampments around the city are actually problematic.
"It's actually created a bit of a crisis, with rotting food, with piles and piles of clothing and foods that are now creating a risk for rodents and sickness that people who are food insecure are scared to give away because they don't know for sure if they're going to have food again. And that food is now laden with bacteria."
In response, Kate Green, executive director of the Heart of Illinois United Way's Home For All Continuum of Care, encourages those who want to donate items to individuals experiencing homelessness to do so through one of the established agencies or shelters.
"It's, I think, incredibly important for individuals to connect with the existing system. We have some really great providers who are using evidence-based practices and have been working in this space for a very long time," Green said. "They know the needs. They're directly connecting with individuals, asking them what they need and aligning those resources."
Peoria Rescue Ministries Program Director Brian Butler said they are doing their best they can to care for their residents and keep them safe.
"We're doing the very best that we can to protect our men. The safety of our men is of the utmost importance to us and not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually, as well," Butler said. "So we're doing everything we can to make our men feel like that they're worthy and valuable--because they are."
For more information on local assistance for those experiencing homelessness, visit LULA Peoria's website.