PROVO — A Provo coalition is among 1,133 groups nationwide vying for a $250,000 grant from Pepsi's Refresh Project.
If secured, the Food and Care Coalition would use the grant money to finish the second floor of a housing unit at 299 E. 900 South in Provo for Utah's homeless. By Friday afternoon, the coalition was ranked 37th in the number of votes. The top two coalitions by Jan. 31 will receive $250,000 in grants.
"This will put us in the door. We'll be able to turn the lights on and get people in," said Brent Crane, executive director of the Food and Care Coalition. "We've lost people to the streets because of exposure in recent years and that's one of the things that spurred this project on."
In 2008, the housing project lost $1.5 million in pledges because of the recession. When completed, the project will provide 26 housing units for men and 12 for women along with space for group therapy and activities.
Pepsi opened voting Jan. 3 for projects as varied as developing gene therapies, saving Mark Twain's legacy and expanding a primate sanctuary to save abused and neglected monkeys. By the end of the first day, the coalition was the 186th vote getter but has since leapfrogged 149 places in the rankings.
Individuals can vote three times daily on Facebook, by texting and by visiting the website www.refresheverything.com. Voters must sign-in or create an account by clicking "sign-in" in the lower left corner of the page. The website provides instructions for voting via text and Facebook.
The housing unit is intended to help individuals learn the skills necessary for re-entry into the community. The coalition says the housing unit will offer stability and help the homeless find employment.
"The coalition has been fantastic," said Claud Cardoso, a man who was homeless for seven years before becoming a coalition client last winter. "What the coalition does for people is really without precedent."
Crane said the Food and Care Coalition doesn't give handouts. Before Cardoso could receive dental care from the coalition Friday, he volunteered for several hours at Deseret Industries. The facility also includes a barbershop, soup kitchen and computer lab.
"These people are not just about getting a handout but they're actually giving a hand up. They're helping people," said Eileen Bidstrup, the director of the coalition's dental clinic. "That's why I volunteer so much time here."
Bidstrup said one of the challenges her group faces is that many people can't relate very well to the issue of homelessness. "Or we passively write it off as, 'They brought it upon themselves,'" Crane said. "But we'll have a shelter for people when we make it a priority."