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It Takes A Village to Raise a Child
October 8, 2018

By Gary Shelton

The following speech was given during the Congregation Convening, September 13, 2018 at Colonial Church in Edina.

Good evening, I am Gary Shelton, and I am the County Administrator for Scott County.  I appreciate this opportunity to speak this evening about homelessness – within my life and Scott County.

 

Homelessness happens for a wide variety of reasons – for some it is simple math – the cost of housing is more than they can afford – and that is especially true in Scott County where the average cost of a small one-bedroom apartment is nearly $1,000 per month; and a home large enough for a family significantly more. 

 

For others homelessness can result from addiction, mental illness, disability, abuse, unemployment; or a dysfunctional family.  Regardless of the reason homelessness – even in a county as affluent as Scott County is very real.

 

As a young child, I was exceedingly fortunate.  I lived in a very upscale home, had two loving parents, and wanted for virtually nothing.  However, my life experiences changed rapidly, and not for the better, shortly after I turned eleven. 

My home, Scott County is one of the most affluent counties in Minnesota.  However, as we come together today there are 95 families, 189 people, 85 of whom are children that are homeless in my County.  And, this number does not include all those under the age of 18 who, like I was, are couch hoppers. 

 

My mother, the strongest influence in my life, was diagnosed with cancer and my world began to unravel.  As she had done my entire life, it was my mother who began to prepare me for what was about to happen – her death and the dismantling of my life as I had known it.  My mother’s illness brought financial ruin to our family and her death devastated my father. 

Falling into a deep depression, my father drank himself to death and by the time I was 15 I found myself without a home and couch hopping.  In the late 60’s there were few, if any, services to teens experiencing homelessness.  Kids, like me, were virtually invisible – more often than not, left to fend for themselves.

 

My home, Scott County is one of the most affluent counties in Minnesota.  However, as we come together today there are 95 families, 189 people, 85 of whom are children that are homeless in my County.  And, this number does not include all those under the age of 18 who, like I was, are couch hoppers. 

 

The African proverb – it takes a village to raise a child – is very appropriate when we consider homelessness as it certainly will take all of our communities working together if we are to find a way to provide the hospitality, shelter and path to an affordable home with support and stability to all those who are currently in need.

 

No person should be without a home.  I want to thank all of you for your dedication and efforts to help families within our community and to end homelessness.

Gary Shelton
Gary Shelter the County Administrator for Scott County, Minnesota.