DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – When it comes to homelessness, every story is different. One group of volunteers at St. Vincent de Paul is going out in search of these people to learn their names and their stories.

In 2019, Montgomery County counted 577 people experiencing homelessness with the majority of them in shelters. While shelters cover basic needs, this group is going directly to their neighbors to let them know someone cares.

“We bring a listening ear. And we bring a conversation, and our time. I think those are the most important pieces. The rest kind of follows,” said Alexander Mingus, Manager of Ministry Formation at St. Vincent de Paul.

For the last 10 months, Mingus has been leading the Labre street outreach program.

Erin Sasal was instrumental in introducing the program to the Miami Valley, after becoming involved in Toledo.

Many of the volunteers are students at the University of Dayton and Wright State. Every Saturday, they gather supplies, coffee, and donuts, and head out into the neighborhood.

Their usual stops include places like House of Bread in Dayton.

They can provide resources for housing or shelters, but their main mission is making a connection, and overcoming common misconceptions.

“I think as we talk about homelessness, there’s not one mold that fits everybody. That’s for sure. And we learn that by hearing their stories,” Mingus.

They hope more people will follow their lead.

“‘It’s easy to just say here’s five dollars or a dollar, and pass them by and not think about it. But you might impact them even more if you actually ask them their story and their name,” Sasal said.

If you’re interested in volunteering with the Labre street outreach program, click here.