BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET)– Many people may not be aware of the challenges faced by homeless people in the Bismarck-Mandan area — but one organization is setting out to change that.

Ever since they started sheltering homeless people in 2017, MSA United Way has hosted an annual event called ‘Walk a Mile in My Shoes’. It helps raise awareness about the struggles of being homeless– especially having to walk miles to receive food. Now, United Way is expanding this opportunity for awareness and fundraising into a week-long event– including shelter tours and donation opportunities towards their Backpack Program.

“We need to make sure that our center for opportunity stays open 24/7,” explained the group’s Executive Director Jenna Gullo. “That people have a place to come to, especially those who have behavioral health issues. We have a lot of people in recovery staying at our shelter, and many, many with mental health issues. Those are often the leading contributing factor to why they’re homeless in the first place.”

Organizers say events like this help provide support to people living in their shelter– including counseling, job, and housing opportunities. It also helps to end stigmas surrounding the homeless community.

“A lot of people have the misperception that homeless people don’t work,” said Gullo. “Well, there are a lot of people employed, going and working and trying to save their money for security deposits, rental applications, and their rent. Another common misperception is that everyone is from out of state. The vast majority of people, probably 80%, are from right here in North Dakota. “

The ‘Walk a Mile in My Shoes’ event is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. on November 15, at the United Way’s Center for Opportunity on Bismarck’s S 12th St. If you’d like to donate time or resources to the organization, you can click here.