Meet Award Recipients Deb Holman and Angela Larson

The Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless recognized CHUM’s Deb Holman and Western Community Action’s Angela Larson at this year’s annual conference with the Bruce Vento Distinguished Service Award and Steve O’Neil Outstanding Organizer Award.

Honorees Deb Holman (left) and Angela Larson (right)

Honorees Deb Holman (left) and Angela Larson (right)

 Deb Holman, Bruce Vento Award Recipient 

In the words of her colleagues:

“Deb Holman’s compassion for others the homeless is palpable. Every day she is out on the street helping tirelessly, asking folks ohow they are, what they need, not only giving time and kind energy, but actually closing loops and helping people connect with the services they need despite their barriers to care. The hopeless, the throw aways, the deeply affected and damaged are Debs people. She does not shy away, but meets people where they are at…she finds a way to help them.

She understands how important animals are to the homeless population and works on her own time and raises funds for Veterinary services to help clients keep their animals. She helps to find foster care if someone is hospitalized or in jail.

Another very important mission of Debs is making sure when one of her people dies, that they get a memorial, it may be a small gathering in a park or her own silent remembrance and quiet day, to a full blown family memorial service.”

Another colleague wrote, “Deb Holman is not the 9 – 5 type. She doesn’t check her job at the parking ramp and go home, her “job” as Homeless Outreach Worker is actually who she is. Regardless if it is 6 am or 6 pm my phone may tell me at any time I have a text message from her – usually looking for a pair of shoes so she can pick someone who happens to have lost their shoes; especially in the winter. When the average person runs across the happenings in the homeless culture we ask ourselves, “how did that happen?’ Deb’s first question is always, “how can I help?” She will help until the issue is resolved no matter what the issue is – even if it means taking the dog home with her. Ask her how about Bennie and Wapi – previously homeless dogs who now call Deb mom… She is not who she is for recognition or glory, but I don’t know a single person more deserving of this award.”

And finally, “This woman is a warrior for folks experiencing homelessness. She is on call 24/7. Her number is etched on the walls of Detox, hospitals and where ever folks can connect with people experiencing homelessness. She works with police, probation, jails, health professionals, whoever it takes to get folks housing or services…She begs for tents, tarps, clothing and any other small thing that the homeless may need, and she is relentless. She also advocates for their animals, knowing that many folks who are homeless also have mental health issues and need their animals. She tries to take time off, but while she is taking time out for herself also has her phone on and answers emails from the folks who need her. It is hard to explain this woman who is so dedicated to trying to make life easier for homeless folks. But she is so deserving of this award. I don’t know actual numbers, but of this I am sure, over the years there are hundreds whose lives have been changed by this woman. Maybe the most important thing is, she does it all with great respect for those she serves. 

Angela Larson, Steve O’Neil Award Recipient 

Angela Larson is a tireless leader and organizer of housing and homeless services in southwestern Minnesota. And by tireless, I mean she regularly is sending work emails late into the evening and before dawn, after a full day of work at Western Community Action followed by an evening of mothering her five children.

In February 2006, Angela was hired by WCA as the Community and Family Support Director. When she began this job, the department only had two transitional housing grants and a small emergency shelter grant. Since then, the program has more than tripled in size to include the Refuge Homeless Shelter, HUD Rapid Rehousing and Permanent Supportive Housing Programs, ESG Rapid Re-Housing as well as the Family Homeless Assistance and Prevention Program.

Angela is the primary leader in the start-up and on-going efforts of Community Circles, a support group designed to engage participants and build community. Angela took the lead in establishing annual Project Community Connect events, which provide a one-stop clearinghouse of resources for Lyon (“lion”) County residents.

Angela has been a strong supporter of bringing new food security programs to the five counties that WCA serves. She has been instrumental in bringing Ruby’s Pantry to both the Marshall and Jackson areas, enabling hundreds of families to stretch their food dollars each month.

She has lead the Marshall Homeless and Hunger Task force for years and started the Jackson Hunger Team, both of which help to bring food security programs and nutrition education to SW MN. She wrote Open Your Heart grants which provided tons of shelving for the Marshall Food Shelf, construction money to re-model the food shelf in Westbrook, and a refrigerator and shelving for the Heron Lake/Okabena (Oo-kah-beena) food shelf.

Angela was raised in a household that faced mental health and financial struggles. She has known the challenges of single parenthood. She is a courageous survivor, an effective organizer, and an inspiring leader.