By Lee Blons | I’ve often shared the story of Totiana, a young woman I met a few years ago who ended up homeless here in Saint Paul. Her first night alone, she was approached by a man inviting her to become an “exotic dancer.” Instead, Totiana boarded a Metro Transit bus where the driver kindly let her sleep, her backpack for a pillow. This happened frequently. And in the morning, she would get up and go to high school.
Sadly, there are about 250 young people on any given night who are homeless in Saint Paul.
But congregations like The House of Hope Presbyterian Church have not turned away from the “Totianas” in their community.
HOH is one of the 70 congregations in the Beacon collaborative determined to end homelessness.
But only a handful of congregations have taken on the leadership and commitment that House of Hope has. We call these congregations “Catalyst Congregations” because their leadership and commitment creates ripples of action and change throughout the community.
On Easter three years ago, Beacon and House of Hope signed a covenant to symbolize our shared commitment to creating housing for homeless youth in St. Paul.
We declared that we share the values of fostering hope rather than fear, abundance rather than scarcity and community rather than isolation.
House of Hope promised leadership, resources and commitment to create the vision of Prior Crossing, where together with The Wilder Foundation we will serve 44 young adults who have been in Totiana’s shoes and give them a supportive home and community to learn and grow.
Not all congregations can make the extraordinary gift that House of Hope did: $500,000 as a catalyst for leveraging public investment in this housing. (Which worked – just last fall Prior Crossing was fully funded for construction which we expect to start this year.)
But all congregations can do the other work that House of Hope members took on as Beacon Citizens urging state legislators to prioritize affordable and supportive housing for Minnesotans who need it most. Last year those Beacon Citizens together with other housing advocates in the Homes For All campaign, gained $100 million for affordable housing.
There’s more work ahead to help Wilder and Beacon raise the necessary funds to provide key services at Prior Crossing to be the catalyst for its young tenants.
Think about all the Totianas who simply don’t have the connections, the financial support of family, the safe harbor from which to launch. They need you. They need us. They need a home.
Support this year’s effort to add $2 million to the Homeless Youth Act that could provide the needed service funds for Prior Crossing. Start here, stay tuned to your email inbox, and know that like House of Hope, you can live your values and make Prior Crossing come true.