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Linn County deputies now carrying help for the homeless

Churches' Catholic Care Packs contain hygiene items, snacks, water

Catholic Care Packs prepared by churches in Rock Island, Ill., include a variety of items that would be of use to people who are homeless or in need. The Linn County Sheriff’s Office received 26 packs to distribute to people in need whom deputies encounter while on patrol. (submitted photo)
Catholic Care Packs prepared by churches in Rock Island, Ill., include a variety of items that would be of use to people who are homeless or in need. The Linn County Sheriff’s Office received 26 packs to distribute to people in need whom deputies encounter while on patrol. (submitted photo)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Earlier this month, the Linn County Sheriff’s Office announced it was joining an effort to bring some help and comfort to people in need whom deputies encounter while on the job.

Starting July 18, patrolling deputies began carrying Catholic Care Packs in their patrol cars. The packs are prepared by churches in Rock Island, Ill., and they include a variety of items people who are homeless or have few resources might appreciate.

The packs are distributed to law enforcement agencies throughout Iowa and Illinois for officers to hand out when they encounter people in need.

The Linn County Sheriff’s Office received 26 packs.

Maj. Chad Colston of the Linn County Sheriff’s Office talked with The Gazette this week about the packs and the decision to get involved with the program.

Q: What are Catholic Care Packs?

A: From my understanding, the program originally started with a Rock Island County sheriff’s deputy, Tim Ott, who was seeing people go in and out of the jail, and they lacked a lot of basic items that we would probably take for granted.

Ott began filling plastic baggies with miscellaneous items — mostly hygiene products — and handing them out to exiting inmates and homeless people as he came across them. Then local churches got involved, and it grew from there.

Q: How did the sheriff’s office decide to get involved in this program?

A: We knew it wouldn’t be difficult for us to get involved and spread these packs around, because it really would take next to no effort on our part. The packs already come to us loaded with items and the churches in Rock Island County are collecting those donations and packing those supplies into these backpacks.

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All we would have to do once we received them is hand them out when we come across people who need a little help.

Q: What comes in the packs?

A: The packs are filled with a lot of small items that a homeless person or someone who is experiencing a rough patch might find useful.

There are hygiene products including toothpaste, a toothbrush, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, lotion and baby wipes. There are also bottles of water, a bunch of packaged snacks like granola bars, crackers and other stuff.

And, depending on the season, there might be a blanket or a pair of gloves and a stocking cap, or maybe some socks.

And we also decided to add information about our local shelters and resources so they can get connected to help if they need it.

Q: Have deputies handed any packs out yet?

A: To my knowledge, they haven’t given any packs ready to go in all our squad cars, and we also sent some up to our detective bureau.

I’ll tell you what though, the week before we got the packs, we had a woman and her son come in looking for some help. Her son was autistic and they were traveling across the country from Seattle, trying to get home, and they had exhausted all of their resources.

And last week, when we got the packs, we commented to each other about how that mother and son would have been a perfect example of people that could benefit from a pack like that. Of course, it wasn’t going to solve all their problems, but it might have given them some comfort.

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We ended up pooling our resources and paying for a hotel room for her and her son so they could have a place to sleep, shower and eat, but if we had the packs, that would have been one more way that we could have helped them.

Q: What happens when these 26 packs run out?

A: We get more. This is something we definitely want to keep up, because it’s a simple way that we can help.

Let’s face it, a pack with some supplies isn’t necessarily going to get someone back on their feet, but at the very least it can bring that person some comfort and a few items that could be helpful to someone who has exhausted all of their resources.

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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