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Letter: A need to help homeless

I see it most every week as they come to church for help. A church is a good place to go, and a pastor the logical person. But their situation is not good or logical. It may be a family with children needing gas money to get back home, food to make it to the next paycheck or a meal today so they don’t go to bed hungry.

We at Bethel Lutheran Church take seriously Christ’s command to help the needy. Through one means or another we provide thousands of dollars annually in assistance. We realize it is just a Band-aid, neither sufficient to get a family back on their feet or provide for the homeless.

We read about the millions of dollars needed for the estimated 14,000 homeless of Minnesota where youth make up half the homeless population. It is not someone else’s problem. In 2013 Willmar’s Lutheran Social Service office assisted 46 youth ages 16-21.

I am reminded weekly by people coming to Bethel for help who slept in their cars this winter, the couch-hopping teenager or the underemployed man who found shelter in a storage shed. Especially sad is the neglect of our community’s children. A school principal told me, “How can I expect kids to do homework when they don’t have a home?”

I serve as a board member of LSS and have learned what this statewide organization is doing. I see families, some with two incomes, yet they still can’t afford housing. A single mom said she has no hope of finding a suitable home on a minimum wage. Increasingly some suffer the loss of a job or foreclosure and find themselves homeless. The state of Minnesota has an important role to see that families have affordable housing.

I urge you to contact our state legislations, Sen. Lyle Koenen, 651-296-5094,, and Rep. Mary Sawatzky, 651-296-6206,

Ask them to work for the funding of affordable housing for all in Minnesota because the need is right in Willmar.

Pastor Mari Thorkelson

Bethel Lutheran Church