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Teach your community well
August 21, 2014

These comments were made by Betsy Cruz, a suburban high school teacher, to the Edina Planning Commission on Aug. 13:

Tonight, I would like share my perspective as an educator about why the 66 West Apartments are so important for our homeless youth.

I learned early on in my teaching career to stop making assumptions. It is easy to assume that because I don’t see homeless people on a daily basis, it’s not a problem in our community. But the fact is, I do see homeless people on a daily basis -- it’s just not apparent that they are homeless.  

I assumed that because we live in an affluent community, any youths who were experiencing homelessness must have options, places to go, and support services. When I found out one of my favorite students was homeless, and there was practically nothing I could do for him and no place for him to go, I realized once again that I need to stop making assumptions.

The second thing I have learned as an educator is that nobody wants to fail.

Everyone wants to live independently and to control the direction of his or her life. When someone isn’t able to do this, don’t assume it’s because he is lazy or she is incapable. Most likely, it is because he or she simply still needs to be taught the skills necessary for independent living.  

This is what I like so much about 66 West Apartments: it’s not just a place for our homeless youths to live, but it’s a place where they can learn to be independent, where they can fill in the gaps in their life skills education, and where they can finally experience what it is like to be a part of a supportive community.

If a student came to my class unable to read or do math, it would be completely unacceptable for me, as an educator, to blame the student or say it’s not my problem, and tell him to get out of my class and figure it out on his own.

So when we have a homeless youth who comes to us with a gap in life skills, we can’t just pretend like he’s not there, like it’s her fault, like they will go away if we do nothing.

What kind of a community would we be if we denied help to the most vulnerable, if we refused to educate those with the most potential to dramatically improve?  

That is not the kind of community that Edina is, and that is why I ask you to support the 66 West Apartments. 

Ed note: The commission voted 4-1 to recommend that the Edina City Council approve zoning changes to build Beacon’s 66 West. The council discussion is scheduled for Sep. 2.

 

Betsy Cruz
Betsy Cruz is a member of St. Stephens Episcopal Church in Edina, a resident of Bloomington, and a teacher at Kennedy High School there.