Controversy at Women of Nations

The controversial departure of the executive director of Women of Nations has sparked public outcry over the decline in American Indian representation within the organization. Activists supporting former executive director Norma Renville argue that she was fired as part of a larger attempt by the organization’s board of directors to move the agency away from its American Indian-specific mission. Many who spoke at a recent community meeting said that the situation at Women of Nations parallels the larger history of Native people being denied sovereignty and basic rights by white Americans. Activists have also called attention to the majority non-American Indian composition of the agency’s board of directors. In recent weeks, the debate over Women of Nations has grown ever more confusing, as some activists conflate the departure of Renville with the concerns about American Indian representation. Continue Reading

Families Moving Forward in Minneapolis—or closing doors?

Families Moving Forward, a Minneapolis-based family homeless shelter, faces possible closure by mid-July due to a funding crisis. This month, the faith-based non-profit issued an appeal for donations, stating that the organization will have to close by July 15 if it cannot raise $60,000. “Unless we do some dramatic things, we’re not going to be able to survive,” executive director Leslie Frost said in an interview in mid-May. The faith-based non-profit has served over 1,800 families since its inception in 1992. The agency currently serves eight families at a time in its emergency shelter program and provides 32 units of permanent affordable housing. Continue Reading

No home and no way to get to help

State lawmakers showed signs of support this session for legislation that would allow non-profit agencies serving the homeless to purchase discounted bus passes. The proposal described in this article passed the House and Senate conference committee. Click here for Session Weekly article. Under the proposed legislation, twenty agencies serving the homeless could purchase half-price Super Saver bus passes and tokens on behalf of clients. Advocates argue that the legislation is crucial to connect homeless people with housing, health care, job training, and other basic services. Continue Reading

No hiding under the covers: Bedbugs are back

Bedbugs, the unwitting beneficiaries of the foreclosure crisis, are creeping back into Twin Cities’ households, straining the pocketbooks of low-income families. The blood-sucking insects can cost thousands of dollars to eradicate. Families often have to throw out their mattresses, furniture, and even books, toys, picture frames, DVDs –anywhere the apple seed-sized insects might hide. And, since bedbugs can survive for up to a year without feeding, even the most careful efforts to eliminate them can fail. Although the Minnesota Department of Health does not track the number of infestations, as bedbugs have not been shown to carry disease, exterminators and public health organizations report sharp increases in the past several years. Continue Reading

Birthday eviction hearing for Minneapolis woman

Rosemary Williams spent her sixtieth birthday inside a crowded courtroom April 22, where she began the legal process of fighting eviction from her foreclosed Minneapolis home. UPDATE April 26, 2009 Rosemary Williams’ court date has been postponed until May 26. The Minneapolis resident’s supporters declared the date change a victory, as it will allow Williams to remain in her home for at least another month. “GMAC is really freaked out,” Linden Gawboy, organizer for the MN Coalition for a People’s Bailout, said. “It shows that we’re having an effect and they’re running scared.” GMAC Mortgage, Williams’ lender, could not be reached for immediate comment. Continue Reading

Services for runaway, homeless youth in Minnesota threatened

Over the past two years, funding for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act supported shelters, drop-in centers, community outreach, and supportive, transitional housing for runaway and homeless youth. Social service agencies received $1 million in one-time funding under the Act for the 2008-2009 biennium. Now the money is set to run out.Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, and Rep. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, introduced legislation this session that would appropriate $8 million in renewable funding. Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s budget proposal does not include any funding for the Act. Advocates for homeless youth say that without this funding, agencies will have to scale back already meager services, forcing more youth onto the streets. Continue Reading

Minnesota food shelves give more, need more this year

Demand at local food shelves skyrocketed in the past year, as more Minnesotans face layoffs and job insecurity. Graph from Hungers Solutions reportVisits to metro area food shelves increased 21 percent in the last year, according to a new report from Hunger Solutions, a hunger relief organization. In Dakota and Carver counties, increases are even more alarming, at 70 percent and 66 percent respectively. At the same time, only about 69 percent of eligible Minnesota residents receive food stamp benefits. “It’s pretty staggering,” Jon Guy, of hunger relief organization Second Harvest Heartland, said. Continue Reading

Stopping foreclosure: One woman’s home

Activists gathered at the foreclosed home of Rosemary Williams in south Minneapolis yesterday, vowing to stay as long as necessary to prevent her from being evicted. Williams has lived on the same block for fifty-five years. Twenty-six years ago, Williams and her mother purchased her current home. When her mother died six years ago, Williams had to refinance twice into an adjustable rate mortgage. When the monthly payments shot up from $1,200 to $2,200, she could not afford to pay. Continue Reading