Washington Evening Journal
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Washington, IA 52353
Fairfield man’s experience with homelessness prompts him to help others
FAIRFIELD — A Fairfield man has made it his mission to help people in need after going through his own difficult ordeal.
Zane Safrit said that he has noticed more homeless people in Fairfield in the last couple of years. He wanted to do something about it. He began talking to community leaders from all facets of the community from the mayor to the chief of police to the library director and many people involved in social services. He realized that there are a number of resources for people struggling to afford the basics, but the groups providing them often don’t know about each other.
Safrit decided to collect all of those resources into a single document that he could give to homeless people or other people who had fallen on hard times. He gathered information about all the services offered by churches, nonprofits and local governments and put them on a foldable card that can fit in a person’s wallet. It includes information about where to find free meals, food pantries, clothing, legal services and more.
Safrit launched a GoFundMe on Jan. 1 to pay for the cost of designing and printing the cards. Just five days later, he had received $1,600 in donations, more than his $1,500 goal. So far, 750 cards have been printed, and about 600 have been given out. Safrit has arranged for them to be included in food boxes given out at food pantries, and in the Carry On Bags program that provides food to children over the weekend.
He was inspired to take on this project partly because of his own experience with homelessness. In 2018, Fairfield was named the Best Small Town by Smithsonian Magazine. Safrit said that was ironic for him because that was also the year he became homeless, living out of his car off and on for the next 15 months.
“It came at the end of a 10 year slide where nothing worked … marriage, friends, nothing,” Safrit said. “After a while, my patient landlord told me, ‘I can’t carry you any longer,’ and so I moved into my car.”
Safrit said he was lucky to have a few friends who let him stay with them while they were on vacation, and in one case he agreed to paint a house in exchange for sleeping there. Safrit was able to get back on his feet, but the experience made him keenly aware of an issue — homelessness — that he never had to think about before. In fact, about 10 years before, Safrit was recording a podcast, and happened to interview a man named Richard Troxell, an author and someone who helps homeless people in Austin, Texas.
“I was thinking, this is a great guess, and I live in Fairfield, where we’re fortunate not to have any homelessness,” Safrit said.
Within a few years of Safrit’s own experience with homelessness, he began talking to a friend about the issue, and the two agreed that there seemed to be more homeless people in Fairfield than before. After meeting with people from The Well in Fairfield and learning about all the services it offers such as job training and financial assistance, they talked to more and more people until hitting upon the idea of creating a resource card.
Safrit said that, as more people learn about the resource card he’s made, more of them are eager to hand it out at their own establishments, to help get the word out about all the services available.
“I keep getting positive feedback and people wanting to help,” he said.
Call Andy Hallman at 641-575-0135 or email him at email@example.com