By Mrinal Gokhale
With this month’s frigid temperatures rising, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County and Milwaukee Area Labor Council AFL-CIO are collecting blanket and sleeping bag donations for the homeless. They’re accepting donations until the end of January, with the goal of surpassing the 250 blankets raised in 2014.
“An estimated 1,500 people experience homelessness in Milwaukee on any given night and some feel that number is even higher,” state Jay Reinke, community service liaison at Milwaukee Area Labor Council.
Though the two organizations conduct this blanket drive almost every year, this year’s drive is much more publicized to serve the increasing need, according to Nicole Angresano, Vice President of Community Impact at United Way.
She noted that each year, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County hosts Project Homeless Connect, a one day job and resource fair for the homeless and people living in poverty throughout Wisconsin.
“At the 2015 Project Homeless Connect, we discovered a higher demand for blankets and sleeping bags among the homeless, so that’s what we’re collecting in this year’s drive,” she said.
United Way and AFL-CIO Community Services are distributing the collected donations to many organizations, agencies and shelters that help the homeless as well as people struggling to make ends meet, according to Reinke.
“This way, more people and children can stay warm and the few resources these families have can be used for things like food and housing,” he explained.
“We’re distributing to about 18 agencies and organizations, depending on how much we collect.”
Reinke said this is the third time United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County and AFL-CIO have conducted this blanket drive. He explained that the two organizations start planning the event in August.
“We aim not to compete with similar efforts in the area. We’ve been planning this for months through grassroots efforts like distributing fliers and other media outreach,” he said.
Blanket and sleeping bag drop off locations include Milwaukee Area Labor Council (633 S. Hawley Road Suite 110), United Way of Greater Milwaukee (225 W. Vine St) or Waukesha County (117 Paramount Drive), and all City of Milwaukee firehouses.