News in Brief (12.08.2010)

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Colorado Homeless Advocates Opening 98-Unit Building in Denver  

The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless is gearing up to unveil its 15th housing community. That brings the total number of units built by the nonprofit organization for the homeless to 1,500, the Denver Post reports.  

“More and more families who never thought they would be homeless are coming to us for help,” said coalition president John Parvensky to the Denver Post. He added that the souring economy has caused donations to drop roughly 18 percent from a year ago.  

The building will include 7,500 square feet of retail space for businesses that will employ clients of the coalition. The 98- unit housing complex will shelter about 50 homeless people and 48 working households. Income levels of such households will range from $10,000 to $35,000.  

Houston Resident Serves as Santa for the Homeless  

Ed Gardner is a Houston-area CPA who for 30 years has been playing the part of Santa for those down on their luck, My Fox Houston reports. More than three decades ago, he founded a toy, clothing and food drive.  

“I came up with the idea 30 years ago to have the drive. At first, we helped the Houston InterFaith Ministries. We’ve since gotten too big for them. For a decade now, we’ve helped Star of Hope,” Gardner said to My Fox Houston.  

“I had one gentleman today that went over to Sam’s and he bought $250 worth of food,” he added during an interview with the TV station.  

Gardner says he still recalls the first people he helped in 1980, when the drive began.  

One was a young woman who was 23. “She had three children, and one of the children came up when she was thanking the pantry coordinator and said, ‘Mommy, Santa Claus didn’t forget us this year,'” Gardner said.  

Once Homeless, Attorney Now Shares Story  

Nikki Johnson-Huston is married, has three degrees and serves as a lawyer for the city of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Daily News reports.  

But in her childhood, Johnson-Huston was homeless, living with a mother who had an alcohol problem and was unable to care for her child.  

Today, Johnson-Huston has made it her mission to tell the homeless about opportunities available to them and how they can pull themselves out of a cycle of poverty. She says she hopes telling her story to others will inspire them to follow their dreams and achieve their goals.  

“I had the dream of being a lawyer since I was a little girl and it was a long and difficult process with failure along the way, but I got to live my dream,” she told the Philadelphia Daily News. “It only takes one person to believe in you.”  

Seattle Man Launches Meal Service for the Homeless  

Three years ago, now 27-year-old Jon Coyne started AOK Friends (Acts of Kindness) with the hope of helping a few homeless individuals, the Seattle Times reports. Last weekend, the group was able to serve meals to about 115 homeless individuals.  

“To see people coming together and sharing with one another, it’s an expression of love,” said Coyne, a Washington State University psychology graduate whose weekday job is working with autistic and disabled young people at Mariner High School.  

AOK Friends is one of about a dozen charities that regularly serve meals at Seattle’s “Outdoor Meal Site,” an area with tables and benches under the freeway.  

When Coyne started the group, he spent about $50 to buy hot dogs and bottled water. He cooked at home and then brought them to a park to serve them.  

“I had never really been in that part of town much, and when I got down there I had this great sense of fear,” Coyne said. But the Seattle Times reports that a man who saw he had food to give away offered reassurance: “He said, ‘You’re cool. No one will mess with you.’ It was exactly what I needed to hear.”  

Compiled by Dianna Heitz, from previously published reports. 

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