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Snapshot of homeless on a sunny afternoon


This news story was published on May 26, 2011.
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MASON CITY — Gail Thomas got out of her white sports utility vehicle and gave a $20 bill to Justin Rinde. “You guys make sure these dogs get food and shelter,” she said. “God bless you,” Rinde responded.| MASON CITY — Gail Thomas got out of her white sports utility vehicle and gave a $20 bill to Justin Rinde.

“You guys make sure these dogs get food and shelter,” she said.

“God bless you,” Rinde responded.

They chatted briefly about the dogs — Rinde’s dog Lady and friend Spencer Hesse’s dog Paco — and then Thomas headed back to her vehicle.

“I rescue dogs, so as soon as I saw these guys out here I wanted to stop,” said Thomas, of Nora Springs. “I’m just an avid dog-lover.”

Another passerby approached Hesse and Rinde, as a steady stream of vehicles turned into and out of the entrance to the Plaza West Shopping Center just after 1 p.m. Thursday.

The two young men had been there about 15 minutes, asking for money to pay for another week’s stay at the American Best Inn & Suites in downtown Mason City.

It usually takes several hours standing on a corner to raise the money needed for a week’s stay, Rinde said. But on this sunny Thursday before a holiday weekend, things were starting well.

“The cops don’t like us standing around, but it’s not illegal,” said Rinde, 20, of Brainerd, Minn. He and Hesse said they met two months ago while talking about their dogs. They soon found they’re both in the same situation — homeless.

There were 23,808 homeless people in Iowa in 2009, according to a report last year by the Iowa Council on Homelessness. The total was 37.8 percent higher than the year before. Another 15,351 people were at risk of homelessness, an increase of 20.6 from 2008, the report said.

Rinde said he’s been in Mason City since February. He said he has been looking for work. “But without a permanent address it’s hard to find. A lot of places frown when you don’t have a permanent address.”
He said he plans to move with his girlfriend to the Cedar Falls area, where she will attend La James College next month.

Hesse said his girlfriend is expecting a baby on Aug. 12. “Right now I just want to get on my feet and support my baby when she comes.”
They said anyone willing to help could call their friend at (641) 220-3778.

Thomas said she was happy to help the two and their dogs.

“I know times are really hard right now and people do need a little extra help,” said Thomas, who works at the Microtel Inn in Clear Lake. “I’m lucky to have a job and be able to support my family.”|

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