We’re glad, in a way, that homelessness made front page news last week. It’s time the public becomes aware that homelessness is an insistent and growing problem in our community. It’s a little ironic this major news story hit page one of the Star Tribune the very day after Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative held our advocacy kickoff event, Acting on Faith, at House of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, attended by nearly 200 people from 38 congregations and 44 House districts crossing city and county lines.
But I guess that coincidence affirmed that our work as a nonprofit, interfaith network of congregations – creating housing, providing shelter and seeking private and public resources to do it right – is needed now more than ever.
Our big audacious goal is to build public will to end homelessness entirely – and that we share with any number of housing advocacy groups and service organizations. But our objective for Acting on Faith was specific: to urge our elected officials to fund the Homeless Youth Act with $8 million. That’s what youth-serving organizations believe will begin to make it possible to serve teens who are homeless to get stable housing and also the supportive services to offer the nonjudgmental, caring and knowledgeable adult support and guidance they need to be at peace now and build a future. If we can help youth experiencing homelessness today to get housed and find work and build skills, we create happier, productive adults who are much less likely to experience homelessness ever again.
And we know, as Randy Furst’s article indicated, that when we target funding to specific needs, we are effective. Attention and dollars focused on homeless veterans and on people who use shelters most frequently have paid off, decreasing both pretty dramatically.
We know –and you, our supporters know – that this kind of focused, supportive housing works for youth as well: our Nicollet Square development serves 42 youth who were homeless or have exited the foster care system with no place to call home. They are supported to find meaningful work, finish their education and heal from whatever past trauma they may have experienced at home or on the streets. We are providing an environment where they may thrive, not just survive.
“Where the money goes tells the truth about a society,” said Rev. David Van Dyke to the group gathered at his church last Tuesday night. You can help us tell the truth by becoming a Beacon Citizen. It’s easy, not scary, to participate in this effort to let our state lawmakers know that our state budget must make room for our neighbors in need of one of life’s most basic needs, a roof over one’s head. We will guide you along the way, and we’ll let you know what your actions have achieved. Because the truth is that homelessness will disappear only when we realize that everyone in our state deserves a home and budget accordingly.