Bradley University seniors create website to combat homelessness in Peoria, soft launch event April 22

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Three Bradley University seniors are holding a soft launch at Crafted DIY Studio & Bar in Peoria on Thursday April 22, for a website they said will serve as a community resource for helping the homeless.

The Public Relations majors said the idea for their senior capstone project, a website called How Can I Help My Neighbor?, came from witnessing an increase in the unsheltered population once the pandemic hit.

“Peoria has always had homelessness, but this year a lot of people lost their jobs and lost their homes, and along with that, COVID made shelters not safe. So, we started seeing a lot more people on the streets,” said Sophia Vojta, the website’s creative director.

They noticed a need for a resource to connect donors and volunteers with nonprofits that specialize in unsheltered populations, and partnered with Crafted DIY Studio & Bar and JOLT Harm Reduction, a nonprofit that assists Peoria’s unsheltered population.

“We hope that we can bring a little bit more attention to the nonprofits in Peoria that are willing to help these people and help the community,” said Grace Darling, the website’s director of logistics.

Katie Magree, the website’s communication liaison, said a common mistake is dropping off perishable food, like lasagna, at homeless camps, and said it can “do more harm than good.”

“We know there are many people that want to help, but they don’t know how to do it properly or effectively. Our mission is to bring these resources to these individuals who want to help, and direct them to the right spot,” said Magree.

The website provides guidance on how to properly donate money, food, clothes, household items, toiletries, or volunteer time.

“If you have a bunch of old clothes you want to donate, we have a list of all the shelters accepting clothes. It’s organized really easily so if you realize you have something to give, you can find it on our website and who to give it to,” said Votja.

The hybrid event on Thursday from 5-8 p.m. will feature speakers from JOLT Harm Reduction and introduce guests to the website, along with drinks and crafts. Limited in-person tickets are available, in addition to streaming via Google Meet. Online pre-registration is required.

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