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Jaimie Brower walks with Savanah Proctor, 4, during Sunday’s walk to benefit agencies that help the homeless. This was their first time participating.

Steps in the right direction

Walk benefits 20 agencies that work to help homeless

Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Despite the rain, a large crowd turned out for Northeast Indiana Homeward Bound Homeless Walk.

Othello knows a little bit about homelessness.

A big black mixed Labrador retriever, he was rescued from an animal shelter several years ago by Karen Campbell of Fort Wayne, who’s come to know a little bit about homelessness herself.

For the last four years, she’s been on the board of Hope House, a Fort Wayne nonprofit that provides housing, counseling and other services to homeless women, including those recovering from addiction.

“We hear a lot about homelessness in other countries or other cities, but we’re not aware of how much it is around us,” said the 35-year- old career development staff member at IPFW.

“These women need support, and that’s what we provide,” she added, before stepping out with Othello, wearing a Hope House T-shirt for Sunday afternoon’s Northeast Indiana Homeward Bound fundraising walk.

The event, in its 11th year, benefits 10 local organizations that work with homeless people or try to prevent homelessness, said Mary Hamrick of Fort Wayne, walk co-chairperson.

About 400 people, many with their canine companions, participated, she said.

“We actually encourage that,” added Hamrick, director of development for Vincent Village, an event beneficiary.

Other agencies that will share in the proceeds include Genesis Outreach, Hope House, Huntington House Shelter, the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Fort Wayne, Pathfinder Services, The Fort Wayne Rescue Mission, Whitington Homes, The Women’s Bureau and the YWCA Northeast Indiana.

As the last walkers returned from covering an approximately 3.2-mile course that wound through downtown on a cloudy, damp afternoon punctuated by a chilling drizzle, Hamrick said she was pleased with the turnout.

“For a day like this, I thought it was awesome. It was very well attended,” Hamrick said, noting the walkers likely raised more than $40,000.

“A lot of people don’t know how many people are homeless and their needs,” she explained

“We try not only to bring money in for battling against homelessness but get the word out there about how people get that way.”

Similar walks have been scheduled in 10 other communities statewide, although not all of them took place on Sunday, Hamrick said.

Before the kickoff, Mayor Tom Henry encouraged the local walkers by reading a proclamation and citing their efforts as “part of what makes Fort Wayne a better place to live.”

Terra Brantley, news anchor at WANE-Channel 15, led the walkers wearing a rainbow-colored umbrella hat.

She said it was her first time working on behalf of the event, in which she got involved through efforts on behalf of the Fort Wayne YWCA.

“Just because a person is homeless does not mean they are hopeless – or helpless,” she told participants.

She then shared the story of a Fort Wayne woman she identified as “Anita” who, in her 20s, was homeless, addicted to crack cocaine and a mother of six who gave birth to one child in a friend’s bathroom.

Now, in her 50s, that woman is not only not homeless but she has become a productive worker for the local non-profit that helped her. She’s about to graduate from Indiana Tech with a degree in human resources, Brantley said.

“Many people would have written this woman off,” she said.

“That shows the incredible healing power of one agency, and we have 10 here represented today.”

After the event, Brantley said Anita told her she wants to start her own homeless shelter someday soon.

“Isn’t that amazing?” she said.