Saturday, June 19, 2010

Twin City Whirlwinds

As tornadoes rolled through Minnesota, we conducted a whirlwind of interviews in the Twin Cities. We started out by serving lunch on Thursday at Catholic Charities...we donned hair nets and dished up lasagna, beans, fruit and salads to the families streaming into the lunchroom. We talked with a Housing First manager at a different branch and then with a recommended "Housing First guru" head of the SARA (Single Adult Rental Assistance) Program at Simpson Housing Services. The next morning we spoke with Julie Manworren, Executive Director at Simpson, and she walked us through one of the shelters they run. Simpson is unique in that it has emergency shelters, permanent supportive housing for single adults, and subsidized rental assistance for families- I recommend reading their mission! One big takeaway from our conversation with Julie was her call for our generation to not accept the "normalization" of homelessness.

We then headed to Wilder Research, part of the Wilder Foundation that does community research, to talk about the information they gather about homelessness in state-wide surveys administered every 3 years. Here are some interesting numbers from the 2009 study compared to 3 years ago:
-25% increase in numbers of people experiencing homelessness
-46% increase in numbers of homeless youth
-African Americans (4% of MN adult population but 41% of homeless pop.) and American Indians (1% of MN adult pop. but 11% of homeless pop.)are significantly over-represented in the homeless population
-3/4 of the homeless report at least one of the following major health issues: mental illness, substance abuse or a chronic physical health condition

Our next stop was Cabrini Partnership, a permanent supportive housing organization implementing Housing First to build a very devoted community. Usually we meet with only one to several people at once, but we sat around a big table in their kitchen and heard stories, one by one, from about 15 folks- including the Executive Director, case workers, other staff, and tenants. It was a unique opportunity to talk to so many people at once! They even shared root beer floats with us... :)

We ended up the day briefly talking with Cathy ten Broeke, who has been instrumental in advocacy and community leadership in the Hennepin County Office to End Homelessness. She has also done some incredible photography about homelessness- check out her work!

Saturday we stopped by a bike shop to get a "QuickFit" to help make some adjustments with cleat positions, seat height, etc, which will hopefully alleviate some of our knee-related woes. We talked and laughed with Arnold, a Vietnam veteran, for about 2 and 1/2 hours about his life and thoughts on everything from "flop houses" to Mitch McConnell. And big news: James and Sarah cleaned and organized the van, which had accumulated all sorts of surprises! It is now fit for human habitation again. Now we head into the wind towards FARGO, ND...

Westward Ho(pefully),

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