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Leaning in, claiming power
July 8, 2014

By Lee Blons | A recent retreat brought our board members and other congregation leaders together to talk about what it means for Beacon to be a collaborative of congregations committed to ending homelessness.

Beacon is committed to developing the power to end homelessness. For some, the term “power” has negative connotations, but “power” really is about the capacity to act. It is a neutral term and only when abused does power become a problem. It’s interesting that while we may feel discomfort about claiming a desire to be powerful, rarely do we choose to be powerless.  

Beacon has been quite successful in partnership with our congregations in building the community support to overcome people’s fears about affordable housing. But, to be honest, we have defined it as “building community support” rather than “power”. So learning to embrace this language is new for us.

How does Beacon develop the power to end homelessness – to become a stronger and more effective collaborative? We do that by developing stronger and more effective congregations. When we invest not only in the development of our collaborative but also in the capacity of our congregations and their leadership, the result is a greater collective power and capacity to end homelessness.

This year Beacon leaders will explore what it means to be a collaborative. What do we expect of our congregational partners? And what do our congregational partners expect of Beacon and of each other as peers in the collaborative?

After a couple of years of rebranding and growth as Beacon, we’re now in a position to build on the collaborative’s potential to make a significant impact on our goal to end homelessness. How? For starters this summer we are piloting a three-session leadership development series. Some of our leaders will learn about the history of housing policy in our country, the root causes of homelessness and community organizing principles. This fall, we’ll gather Beacon leaders from our 60+ congregations at our annual Building on Faith event to further explore these issues.

One reason to embrace the concept of building power as a collaborative of congregations is that it clarifies our goals. Not only do we want to create Prior Crossing in St. Paul for homeless youth but we want to create a strong network of congregations and leaders in the East Metro so that we have the ability—the power—to influence how public resources are spent to end homelessness. Not only do we want to provide emergency shelter for homeless families in a network of 60+ congregations but we want the ability—the power—to influence whether $100 million in bonding dollars are invested in affordable housing in our state.

Power moves us beyond the necessary strategizing to solve the immediate problems of providing shelter and housing for a few hundred or even a few thousand toward the ability to call forth the long-term vision of how we will resolve homelessness and build community for all.  

Lee Blons
Lee is Beacon's executive director.