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Numbers are not enough
March 21, 2014

Numbers are important. They tell us the day and time, when we should accomplish tasks or how old we are. They tell us the cost of our morning scone or that mid-afternoon coffee run. Numbers quantify our physical being, allowing us to know how tall our kids have grown or what size clothing to buy. Yet despite all of this, without other words and cultural labels, without a story, numbers would hold no meaning at all.

As an intern for Beacon my day often revolves around numbers. We are constantly calculating the number of Beacon Citizens or their legislative district number. We have been taught the stats to lobby; 14,000 people homeless every night, ½ of whom are under the age of 21. We have learned about the 5,000 families that could be impacted by $100 million in bonds. These numbers are staggering, but without a story, they hold no power.

What I have come to realize is that people don’t relate to numbers, they relate to people. Our stories are what move us, calling us to action. Like the story of a single father who became homeless when he was injured and could no longer work, who found comfort and stability in the Families Moving Forward Program. Or the story of a college student who works overnight at St. Stephens not just to serve, but to build relationships and hear the stories of everyone she meets. Or even the story of a 9th grader willing to take advocacy into his own hands who went to the Capitol to visit his legislator and learned about the true power he holds there.

It is these stories that humanize and give value to the numbers that drive the fight to end homelessness. They tug on our conscience and remind us exactly why everyone has the right to a home. By sharing our stories with our communities and legislators, we can better advocate for change. Stats alone cannot pass that $100 million bill for affordable housing, but our tales of strength, empathy, and hope certainly can.

Lindsey May
Lindsey is an architecture student at the University of Minnesota focusing on urban planning and community engagement. At Beacon she works on advocacy-related projects telling the stories of congregations that rally together in the hope of ending homelessness.