Our Beacon tagline is simple: “We believe in home.” I’ve often remarked that the foundation of any strategy to end homelessness must include a home! So I am very excited by Heading Home: Minnesota’s Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness both because of its focus on expanding access to homes and because there is a clear channel of accountability for its implementation by people who know how to make it happen.
The plan’s first strategy is “increased investments in affordable housing and rental assistance.” Minnesota Housing Commissioner Mary Tingerthal has called for an investment of $100 million in affordable housing in this year’s bonding bill. (Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed $50 million in his budget, the largest amount of bonding dollars ever. We will keep pushing for the full amount but appreciate his serious interest.)
In other words, the call is to invest in homes. And the call is to both public and private resources to combine in this effort.
We know a little something about engaging private resources to end homelessness. Back to our tagline: The word “believe” is a nod to our congregational base. Our partners in this work are communities of faith, people who believe the values of their faith traditions call them to make a positive impact on the problem of homelessness by sharing their time and financial resources to shelter and create housing and advocate for change.
Another reason the state’s plan excites me is because three of the populations called out as meriting particular need and attention match the priorities that Beacon and our partner congregations have selected. These are:
- “At-risk young people emerging into adulthood [who] are highly vulnerable to becoming homeless.”
We have two youth housing developments in progress, Prior Crossing with The House of Hope Presbyterian Church, and another plan to create such housing in the western suburbs in partnership with Edina Community Lutheran Church.
- “People involved in the correctional system [who] are more likely to return to that system when they do not have stable housing.”
With Westminster Presbyterian Church and Plymouth Congregational Church we are taking on the challenging endeavor to serve those with criminal histories, linking employment and community support with stable housing.
- Homeless families, “because children and youth make up nearly one-half of all people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota and homelessness has especially detrimental and long-term impacts on children.”
Through our Families Moving Forward program supported by more than 40 congregations, we offer a “continuum of care,” meaning options for families as they move from shelter to housing. These options come with different levels of supportive service based on families’ needs and may include a rent subsidy, mentoring through congregational partners and regular meetings with our staff to help families stay on track with their goals.
We also have a new partnership with Simpson Housing Services to provide permanent supportive housing for homeless teen parents who are the most likely to become homeless again.
Next week, I will share the other reasons I think this is great plan, including the inclusion of rental assistance for those with very low incomes; and the people and the structure behind the plan. Click here to see the full plan.