Coming to the Capitol

Dylan Novacek March 13, 2020

Congregational Spotlight: First Universalist, Minneapolis

Written by Dylan Novacek, Content Specialist

“It takes real commitment to make change.”

There’s consistent energy at the State Capitol. Within the marble columns and high ceilings, citizens gather in the rotunda to rally. For Barb Melom and her fellow congregants from First Universalist Church in Minneapolis, they are proud to bring the issue of homelessness to their representatives.

“We’ve come to the Capitol to talk to state representatives about why we believe in Beacon’s policy goals,” Barb remarked, confident in her ability to advocate for change. “Initially we were nervous. But after we met with a representative who really believed in us I knew we were making a difference!”

During the legislative session, Beacon has been hosting Mini Days on the Hill to give congregations an opportunity to meet face-to-face with local policy makers. Supporting our bonding bill and Bring It Home Minnesota requires a strong collaborative, like those from First Universalist.

“Everybody needs a place to live. And we don’t have enough of those right now,” Barb stated, highlighting the fact that many people are unable to find a home within the current system. “Leaving a shelter is a big step, and there are a lot of hurdles along the way for them.”

Congregants like Barb help advance our shared goals when they come to the Capitol. Over the next three years, it will take about $1.5 million to fully fund our policy work at Beacon, and donations of every size from the community provide credibility for electeds.

Witnessing close friends struggle with housing, and volunteering hosting families for Beacon’s Families Moving Forward program within her congregation has made Barb passionate about home.

“Home is returning to a safe place every day,” she paused as she considered the impact of the work done at First Universalist. As a volunteer, she runs a knitting program over the holidays called Hats for the Homeless. Barb smiles, reflecting on the experiences working with families; she has a heart for the work.

“There is a separation of who is able to have a home. I believe we are all worthy of one.”

Barb knows the importance of coming to the Capitol.

“Somebody once told me if a legislator hears from five constituents, you can catch their attention. We need people calling and showing up, so they know we’re here.”

Through collaborating with Beacon, congregations get support in standing up for change. While coming to the capitol and speaking could seem intimidating, congregational organizers like Emily Goldthwaite Fries help.

“I was so inspired when I learned that, for some in the group, this was their first time going to the Capitol to meet their senator or representative,” Emily said with pride for this congregation. “It’s very powerful to step outside our comfort zone, into those big marble halls, to carry our values into a place where our decisions are made…to insist on the vision that all people have a home.”

With congregants like Barb, who has more than 15 years of volunteering experience, there is power in faith communities. Beacon will continue to offer opportunities for congregations to get face-to-face with lawmakers, spreading our vision that all people have a home.

“It may have been the first time at the Capitol for a lot of these people, but it won’t be their last,” Emily added. “We have miles to go, but this is a strong start.”

“It’s important to talk to people and have them broaden their views on what it’s like to be without a home,” Barb insisted. “We were lucky to talk to Representative Jamie Long, who has already signed on and supports our goals. These conversations make Beacon’s vision possible.”

Everyone needs a place to live. Together we work to build homes, change policies, and see that all people have a home. Through congregations such as First Universalist stepping into the Capitol, we get closer to positive change.

“It takes caring people and active congregations to be here and make the change we need to see.”

To learn more about Beacon’s policy goals, click here. To get involved in advocating for home, here is a place to start.