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Face to face, hearing the homeless
November 20, 2012

Together with 7 Beacon co-workers, we spent a recent evening at the House of Charity, a transitional housing site in Minneapolis, serving as community volunteers for the 2012 Wilder Research Homeless Survey, a triennial statewide survey of people experiencing homelessness. The goal is to better understand the causes, circumstances and effects of homelessness, and to develop effective ways to prevent homelessness and create housing in the future.

Another 18 people from our network of congregations, including from House of Hope PresbyterianEdina Community Lutheran and Unity Unitarian, also volunteered as interviewers. We were dispatched at different sites across the metro area. Here are some of their thoughts.

 

One volunteer reflected: “Union Gospel Mission fellows were gentle souls with great courage to find their way through incredible hardship.  It was good to be eye to eye, face to face, and in some moments, heart to heart while participating in the ‘scientific’ interview process.  One big fellow said, “I’ve never been brave enough to do something like this before.”  He had a tender smile.  After four hours and 5 or 6 interviews, I left and didn’t burst into tears until I was in the car.”  

 

“The women I interviewed were open and straightforward about their lives.  I was not surprised by their life experience, but it certainly keeps me aware of all the work that needs to be done and how a home feeds and supports a person’s success in all areas,” said another.

 

And this from a third volunteer:  “I met with five people.  I was stunned that General Assistance only provides $92 a month.  All five had high school educations (or a GED) and two had some college as well.  They were all congenial, weren’t angry or bitter, had good attitudes and most had a sense of humor…. I continue to think about my five folks. Talking to them was a privilege, was humbling, was gratitude producing and thought provoking. Thank you for the opportunity.”

 

For my part, it was a privilege to participate as an interviewer.  I was particularly taken aback by the number of times each person had been homeless, the income they’re currently surviving on – and their openness to being interviewed in this way.

 

It’s a privilege to participate in this survey also because of the many ways that we use this data in our work to end homelessness.  We’re very fortunate to live in a state that collects such great information, and I’m grateful to Wilder for leading, organizing, analyzing, and communicating this information.
 

 - Jenny Mason, Congregational Partnership Organizer