Partnering For Home

Dylan Novacek October 16, 2020

Volunteers of America Minnesota and Wisconsin, Service Provider Spotlight. Written by Dylan Novacek – Content Specialist

“We are here to help people build hope, resilience, and wellbeing,” Julie Manworren said with great pride in the work done by Volunteers of America Minnesota and Wisconsin. “Hope is having a vision that your current state, if it is painful, is going to get better. It’s a promise that you aren’t going to stay in this moment forever.”

As President and CEO of Volunteers of America Minnesota and Wisconsin (VOA), Julie believes in home. As an organization, VOA has nearly 125 years of experience in stepping forward as community builders, looking to close the gap between people and their possibilities. Beacon is honored by our partnership with VOA as they prepare to provide onsite services at two of our upcoming Beacon homes, Prairie Pointe and Vista 44.

Asked to define home, Julie said she often looks to the poet Robert Frost, who remarked that, “Home is a place where, when you go there, they have to take you in…”

Julie’s journey has been shaped by the understanding that everything begins with stable, supportive roots. From writing what was the predecessor to the Wilder Survey on homelessness for St. Paul, to working with organizations such as Family Service of St. Paul, Simpson Housing Services, and Living Well Disability Services, she describes her time at VOA as the sum of all her experiences.

“As a child, we had a lot of storytelling in my household,” she reflected. “The story of the three little pigs was a favorite. They have a home…if you have a decent, stable home, then you are protected from the big bad wolf…This is a metaphor for our work, is it not?”

The work at VOA impacts our community in a number of significant ways. They support young people struggling with their mental health. They walk along side people getting re-established after leaving prison. They offer supportive services for elders and people with disabilities. VOA’s large scope of work means they can nurture the wellbeing of all people in the community.

As a faith-based organization, VOA is a fantastic partner in our work here at Beacon. Together we support homes, mobilize faith communities to be a good neighbor, and share an understanding that support and justice are essential in seeing that all people have a home.

“I’ve known of Beacon’s work since it was known under a different name, the Plymouth Church Neighborhood Foundation. My own congregation at Robbinsdale Parkway UCC collaborates with Beacon. I’ve seen their track record and I believe our two organizations are a great match.”

With the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic, the vast disparities that many of our neighbors face have been uncovered. Significant investment in supportive housing is needed now more than ever.

“People come to need support at all different times in life for all different reasons. We are here together to serve those with the greatest needs,” Julie asserted. The creation of homes like Prairie Pointe and Vista 44 would mean 100 more units of housing, coupled with onsite support services for residents to maintain that housing.

“Our staff is here to create customized supports to help people maintain stable housing,” Julie explained. “Our services range from helping with employment, counseling and conflict resolution, transportation, physical and mental health…whatever our residents need, we are here to meet their needs.”

Julie has experienced the impact of VOA’s work firsthand as they serve families in various buildings across the state. Whether it’s organization leaders who once benefited from VOA’s services, or families on their journey to stability, the success stories that come out of VOA are similar to that of Beacon.

“We understand the power of housing as a foundation for life and as an avenue for promoting human dignity. Housing alone isn’t enough. Supportive housing changes lives and helps our communities thrive.”

Eric and Kelly, along with their children, are former residents from one of VOA’s housing communities. Eric would go onto struggle with alcoholism shortly after moving in. Instead of letting this relapse push their family out of stability, he worked closely with his onsite program manager.

With assistance in his sobriety, Eric was able to find a new job and eventually move his family into their own four-bedroom home.

“It takes communities of people to provide this support,” Julie said. “There is a long history of public policy that creates disparities in the lives of people of color. We shoulder the responsibility to bridge that history and gap.”

In order to create future homes at Prairie Pointe and Vista 44, it will take a seed of $15,000 per home as well as a strong collaborative calling on our elected officials to make the policy changes needed to see that all people have a home.

“Legislators often see the light when they feel the heat. You are the match,” Julie said with a confidence born out of years of experience.

Together we affirm that home is the most essential need, and we are thrilled to have our partners at Volunteers of America by our side as we aim to support those with the greatest need.

“We will do everything within our power to create homes that are decent, safe, and affordable. We are at the beginning of what will be a very fruitful and longstanding partnership,” Julie paused and smiled. “The community will be better off for it.”

Want to take action for family supportive housing? Join us at our next Beacon Now: Weekly Virtual Tour. Throughout the month of October we will be discussing what it takes to create Prairie Pointe. Click here to learn more or contact Craig Freeman for more information.