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ONP plans Casino Night to support expanding local need

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Jay Matchett2 / 2

Our Neighbors' Place Day Center has seen a 90 percent increase in traffic over the last year. Its work with housing assistance and its backpack program have especially grown over the last year.

"We want to be able to support these programs," said Our Neighbors' Place Director Jay Matchett.

To help support these and other programs to help battle homelessness in the River Falls area, ONP is planning a Casino Night at Kilkarney Hills Golf Course on Feb. 10. Tickets are $40 in advance or $50 at the door.

There will be food and drinks, a 50/50 raffle, silent auctions, a live auction and more.

"We hope to have a really good fundraiser so we can continue offering really good support and services to all kinds of people in our community that are needing it," Matchett said.

Matchett said some of the increase in traffic at ONP is likely due to the spreading popularity of the day center's housing counseling program. Matchett said the case manager had more than 400 appointments last year for housing counseling. He said ONP helped about 187 people get their names added to a waiting list for housing subsidy programs.

ONP also works with WestCAP and HUD (the Department of Housing and Urban Development) on a rent assistance program.

Matchett said he's also noticed an increase in women coming to ONP for assistance finding affordable housing who have left a domestic abuse situation. Matchett said ONP often works with Turningpoint For Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence. He said once women have left Turningpoint, or are preparing to move on, they are often advised to come and speak with ONP's housing coordinator for help transitioning to their own place, if they need it.

Besides increased awareness of ONP's housing counseling, Matchett said there have been several other factors that have increased traffic over the past year.

"Wisconsin is seeing the largest decline in its middle class of any state in the country," he said.

He believes many people struggle to stay in their homes because wages haven't kept up with rising housing costs.

"These people are not all unemployed at all," he said. "In fact, most of them work very hard and are full time. It's just that they can't actually make enough money to afford a decent place."

That's where housing subsidies come in, he said.

Our Neighbors' Place's backpack program has also grown a lot over the past year, Matchett said. It's now up to about 100 children.

"We'll be working with our partners and different folks in the community to see how we can make that sustainable," Matchett said.

The backpack program, in partnership with Ezekiel Lutheran Church and the River Falls School District, provides food to students over weekends during the school year. This gives kids food when free and reduced-price school lunches aren't available.

Casino night

Matchett said Casino Night will make a big difference to ONP.

"Over 90 percent of our budget is all private, and it's local," he said, "Which gives us the ability to run our programs in the ways that are positive to the community."

He said the reliance on private donors helps streamline processes for ONP, to put more focus on helping people.

"Our attention is on the client, and that's where it should be," he said. "Local dollars help make that all possible."

For more information on Casino Night visit www.ourneighborsplace.org.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

(715) 426-1048
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