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Momentum to end homelessness
February 5, 2014

Leaders in our state are serious about ending homelessness with a comprehensive plan, “Heading Home: Minnesota’s Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.”  Previously  I shared thoughts about this proposal to invest boldly in affordable housing based on our experience as a developer bridging the private and public sectors. Today:  3 more reasons to like this plan. 

First: In addition to asking for a significant bonding increase to build and fix housing, the plan calls for rental assistance to support people to maintain their housing stability. 

Many of Beacon’s tenants who move from the streets or shelters into housing have incomes varying from literally nothing to $5,000 a year. The math is obvious – rental assistance is needed to cover the difference between what they can pay in rent and the cost of providing well-managed and well-maintained housing. 

Creating Nicollet Square was made possible by the commitment of Minnesota Housing to provide not only the major capital funding but also the operating support for the property. Rather than be stopped by the lack of federal funds for rental assistance, Minnesota Housing has committed state funds for this purpose in order to meet the goals of this plan. We are excited to see the renewal of this strategy that will allow us to continue to develop housing for those most in need. Number one on our list is Prior Crossing, 44 more apartments for homeless youth in our community.

Next, I’m excited because of the leadership behind the plan. It is my understanding that Gov. Mark Dayton is deeply committed and has reinvigorated the Interagency Council to End Homelessness, which has 11 state agency commissioners and their deputies. The Council is led by the dedicated and capable leadership of Housing Commissioner Mary Tingerthal and Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson. Furthermore, the lead staff person is Cathy ten Broeke, who demonstrated her mettle as the Hennepin County Coordinator to End Homelessness. She understands how to unite the public and private sectors for social change. 

Finally, the plan sets out cross-agency strategies and action steps required to reach the goals (pp 8-9 of the executive summary). Bringing together 11 state agencies including transportation, education, employment and economic development and public safety to end homelessness is key. It is also important for all agencies to understand the impact that homelessness has on their budgets already. For example, we know that students who are homeless or highly mobile are less likely to perform at their best in school – and consequently may require additional services, tutoring or remedial classes which all cost the education system. Another example: it’s well-known that jails and emergency rooms become de facto shelters and absorb the cost of treating, housing and feeding people who are arrested for petty crimes or seek medical treatment in emergency rooms.

The goals are big. The strategies are bold. The actions are clear. The momentum is palpable. The time to end homelessness in Minnesota is now.

Lee Blons
Lee is Beacon's executive director.