When I first left Ohio to attend college in Minnesota, a friend asked if I wasn’t afraid of being eaten by a polar bear.
Although I have yet to spot a polar bear, I do wonder every December 22 why I live where the sun rises so late and sets so early. I turn on extra lights in my home and office trying to push back the darkness. A clergy member recently suggested that we consider doing a special fundraiser on the Longest Night of the Year, thinking of those without a home to huddle into. And I realized that is why I stay in Minnesota – the cold and dark we endure each year makes us realize that we need each other to survive.
Almost 30 years ago I was involved in advocacy at the state legislature for heating assistance for low-income families. And someone wrote a letter to the editor opposing such funding, stating that our pioneering forefathers had survived the harsh Minnesota winters without natural gas so he didn’t understand the problem. A columnist responded eloquently that the pioneers may have survived on the western plains of Minnesota without furnaces but not without the help of their neighbors.
Today as I sit in my darkening office here at Beacon, I remain grateful for the generosity and warm-heartedness of my fellow Minnesotans. Just as those pioneers and the American Indians who already knew that we survive together, not alone, our goal to create 1,000 homes by 2020 will become reality only because of strong support from our neighbors like you.
Here are a few of the ways you’re responding to that call to end homelessness and create housing through personal financial support, volunteer leadership and advocacy for increasing public funding:
- 118 of you volunteered as community builders for Ending Homelessness Together and The Journey Home luncheons.
- Last fiscal year you helped us to raise $1.9 million in private contributions …
- … and you’re moving us toward this year’s goal of $2.3 million to grow our programs and housing to help more people. (In fact, contributions from Ending Homelessness Together 2013 increased by 25 percent from the previous year). Thank you!
- 1,400 of you became Beacon Citizens who along with other housing advocates gained $4 million for the Homeless Youth Act.
- For Beacon, that translated to 2 grants totaling $225,000 over the biennium for youth-serving programs and housing. Thank you!
And, you helped us:
- open senior housing for 42 lower-income retired Minnesotans;
- renovate family housing for 8 lower-income Minnesota families;
- bring our current total to 485 apartments and townhomes we’ve created or preserved.
So, never fear the darkness; thanks to you our 2014 horizon is dawning bright. Here’s how we will serve more people:
- Beacon Citizens, along with housing advocates statewide, will urge lawmakers to approve $100 million for housing infrastructure bonds providing capital funds for new developments.
- Our Families Moving Forward program continues to grow.
- We’ve incorporated existing mentoring programs in partnership with members of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Edina, and Westminster Presbyterian Church; we hope to double the number of families involved as new congregations sign on.
- With leaders and congregations in Carver and Scott counties, we’re starting a Families Moving Forward program serving families there by Mother’s Day 2014 if we raise $280,000 to cover a program center and staff.
- With The House of Hope Presbyterian Church and The Wilder Foundation we will advocate for full funding from the City of Saint Paul for Prior Crossing this year.
- We’ll secure a site and advocate for community support and approval for new youth housing in the western suburbs with Edina Community Lutheran Church and other congregations.
- With Westminster Presbyterian Church and Plymouth Congregational Church we will secure a site and advocate for community support and approval in 2014 for Minneapolis supportive housing for those who are homeless and have barriers including criminal histories.
Ready to roll up your sleeves so that all Minnesotans will have a warm home on our long nights?
We thought so! See you in the New Year – and may it be a blessed one.