The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

March 26, 2013

One-day event connects agencies to those in need

MANKATO — Jeff Hansen knows what he will do when he lands a job.

“My first paycheck, I’m getting a cellphone.”

Finding a job, he’s found, is tough without one. So is finding one when you don’t have a home address.

Hansen, a Minnesota native, then 30-year Albuquerque, N.M., resident, has had two temporary addresses since arriving in Mankato three weeks ago: Wal-Mart and the Salvation Army.

The first three nights he slept in his car in the Wal-Mart lot, and then he got into the Salvation Army men’s shelter.

Hansen was one of more than 700 people who came to the Verizon Wireless Center for Project Community Connect, where dozens of agencies that provide services to the poor and homeless were on hand.

His goal was to get a haircut and land a job, or barring that, get gas money to drive to the Twin Cities to look for work.

He’s in a situation he’s unfamiliar with.

For most of the past three decades he worked as a photographer and in photo studios. (Years ago he was a wedding photographer at ArtCraft Photography in Mankato.)

But in 2008 the studio he was working for shut down and he took a job as a 711 cashier in a badly battered Albuquerque economy. He also went back to college for an associate’s degree in graphic design. “I couldn’t keep up with the tuition and I had to leave.”

Which brought him to his home state and its stronger economy.

Hansen, eating a sandwich, chips and cookie — one of 800 served Tuesday — was planning to go to an employment desk where he saw Wal-Mart was advertising for help, where he hoped to get a cashier or photo-lab job.

He had also hoped to stop at the booth offering free cellphones with 200 free minutes a month for qualifying people. That’s until he found out he wouldn’t be able to get one of the phones because he had no home address.

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