About 200 people were expected to show up Thursday for the Project Service Connect at the Municipal Auditorium.
"What's been pretty popular is the clothes and the barber," said Joseph Lasky, an AmeriCorps volunteer who helped organize the event.
Groups of mothers and children looked through donated clothing on racks in the back of the room. Many of the donated items were new, said Lasky. A local barber donated his time to give free haircuts. There was information on health-care assistance for people who are underinsured or lack health insurance, provided by the Women's Way Program and the city's free clinic. The American Red Cross provided free blood pressure checks. The Human Resource Association helped people revise their resumes or brush up on their interview skills. Independence Inc. offered information to people with disabilities. The Burdick Job Corps Center was there to provide advice about educational opportunities. Area soup kitchens served a free noon meal. The Area Homeless Coalition provided information to people at risk of losing their homes.
Booths at Project Service Connect offer goods and services to people in the Minot area who have low incomes.
There was strong interest in the North Dakota Legal Services booth, where legal advice was doled out on subjects such as tenant-landlord relations.
Lasky said housing is a critical issue in Minot and in surrounding counties.
"There is a severe lack of affordable housing," said Lasky, and it is hard to find affordable rental housing or even rentals at all.
New housing that is being built is in the neighborhood of $300,000, affordable only by upper- income earners. Although North Dakota might appear to have escaped the economic woes affecting much of the rest of the nation because there is more oil money coming into the state, that isn't the case for lower-wage earners. Lasky said soup kitchens and the Homeless Coalition have noted a big jump in the number of people seeking services.
Lasky will be working with business students at Minot State University this fall on conducting a housing needs survey, the first step in getting hard numbers that can be shown to federal agencies in hope of getting grants for more affordable housing. Lasky said all of the service agencies know there's a strong need, but word of mouth evidence isn't good enough when attempting to get dollars to actually build more rentals.
Those are all issues that are impacting some of the people who showed up for the Project Service Connect event.
Lasky said the event was a "ground up" event, which was great. The city donated use of the armory room at the Auditorium and different social service organizations and churches provided volunteers.
Lasky is also working on a 10-year planning committee to help reduce homelessness in this part of the state.
The event drew people from Minot and the surrounding six counties.