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St. Paul resident creates initiative to help those experiencing homelessness through Amazon wishlist

One St. Paul resident is hoping their story will inspire others to participate in any way that inspires them.

ST PAUL, Minn. — This morning there was a fire at a campsite that served as a temporary home for a handful of folks experiencing homelessness.

The fire off of I-94 and Cretin in St. Paul normally isn't what we would cover on Breaking The News, but we thought it shed a very bright light on a problem that has existed and continues to persist despite the pandemic.

Homeless encampments like the one that was destroyed in Monday morning's fire are not difficult to come by in the Metro. However, so many simply drive by.

"People don't want to be here," Kaelie Lund said. "People don't want to be sleeping outside."

When Lund moved into their St. Paul home, they found it hard to ignore what was happening at Snelling and Carroll Avenues.

"I noticed them and I hadn't been able to see folks outside," Lund explained. "I wanted to introduce myself and just say welcome to the neighborhood. I was able to do that this past weekend and just realized that a lot of these folks had big needs that weren't being met by living outside."

A conversation was all it took for some clarity.

"Seeing it actually in-person in my neighborhood - just wanted to see if I can mobilize some people to help do direct mutual aid to people around Thanksgiving," Lund said. "And it took off! I have gotten about 20, 30 to 40 - on some days - Amazon packages from people everyday."

Their wishlist primarily focused on practicality, including thermal socks and sleeping bags. Items big and small, with a wide price range so anyone could help out with what they could.

"I've been making sure to try to put high quality and bulk items on this wishlist so people can still see a lot of value that's going into what they're purchasing," Lund said. "Also knowing that the items are actually what people want and not items that people think they want - which I think is a huge thing."

Lund so far has raised over $7,600 worth of supplies via the Amazon wishlist. However, they know, one person isn't going to fix it all.

"Certainly I am just one person who had an idea," they said. "And like any good intentioned person--realized, lots of people are already doing this work. So joining efforts with [groups] was super important to make sure that the items are getting to the people who need it most."

Lund has not been shy about directing any interest towards groups like St. Paul Camps Support. They have also worked with the group to distribute certain items. 

Lund said it also doesn't have to be about purchasing items. They reminded everyone that especially during a year that has tested everyone's patience, the well of compassion isn't one that ever runs dry.

"Donating your time, physically going to camps, interacting with people in safe and socially distanced ways in masks, or donating your funds--whatever you have, whatever you're able to do," Lund said. "You have something to give. People have something to give."

You can find Kaelie's Amazon wishlist here. You can also find out more information about St. Paul Camps Support Hub here on their Instagram.

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