OUR VIEW: Working together to create a ‘blessing’ in disguise

Homelessness takes on many different forms.

Just because we don’t see people holding “help me” signs on street corners or sleeping in tents under bridges doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

They may bounce around from couch to couch, staying with myriad family and friends. They may spend their nights in cars, hotel rooms or out-of-town shelters.

More than 500 local students are considered homeless, and three of the county’s school districts — Greenwood, Franklin and Center Grove — are among the top 45 at-risk school corporations for homelessness in the state.

The lack of affordable housing remains a constant barrier for many local residents.

That’s where KIC-IT comes in.

The non-profit organization has been working within the Johnson County community for nearly 10 years to address the crisis. The organization collaborates with other groups and agencies to support young people, ages 16 to 25, who are struggling to break the cycle of homelessness.

The staff offers case management to support clients and create plans addressing their struggles. A drop-in center is available where people can do laundry, get a meal, use computers and socialize with others. Pantry and hygiene items are also available to those in need, but can be hard to access for those who aren’t staying in Franklin where those resources are centralized.

That’s where the Daily Journal and many local partners come in.

Earlier this year, we saw an article in Editor and Publisher magazine about a newspaper in South Carolina that had partnered with a homeless shelter to repurpose old newspaper boxes to house donations.

That’s something we could do right here at home, we thought. So we teamed up with KIC-IT on a similar project.

We donated 10 of our old newspaper boxes that were collecting dust in a warehouse. KIC-IT staff and a team of Amazon volunteers spent countless hours cleaning and painting them.

We came up with a name: Blessing Boxes.

We identified partners throughout the county to serve as locations for the boxes and keep them stocked with canned goods, peanut butter, bottled water/drinks, individual snacks, breakfast bars and a variety of hygiene products, making those necessities more accessible to folks from Greenwood to Edinburgh.

One KIC-IT client said the nice thing about having the boxes is the 24-hour accessibility. Many of the local food pantry resources offer day time distribution hours, which conflicts with her work schedule. While she isn’t able to get everything she needs from the blessing box, she says it has been a valuable resource to supplement needed items.

“When approached with the idea of using repurposed newspaper boxes, KIC-IT jumped on the opportunity to add resources for food insecure families in Johnson County. The box locations are strategic in hopes to reach different corners of Johnson County,” said Katie Schwarz, executive director of KIC-IT. “This project embraces the spirit of community through collaboration with the Daily Journal, KIC-IT, Amazon volunteers and partnerships with the site locations. Our community is strengthened when collaborative efforts benefit the marginalized and meet an unseen need like food insecurity.”

The staff at the Daily Journal couldn’t agree more.

We would like to thank the following agencies, businesses, churches and neighbors for agreeing to take part in this mission: Johnson County Park; Country Kids Preschool; Bluff Creek Christian Church; HeavenEarth Church; Crystal Graphics; Elwood Staffing; Steve Lew Real Estate Group; The Sweat Shop; The Dickinson Juvenile Justice Center; and a neighborhood on Churchill Road in Franklin.

Together, let’s continue to make our little corner of the world a better place.