The invisible side of homelessness

Nine thousand three hundred and twelve: the number of adults, youth and children in Minnesota who were living without a home on Oct. 22, 2015, as part of a one-night statewide Wilder Research study to better understand homelessness. In 2012, it was estimated there are over 40,000 people in Minnesota who experience homelessness over the course of a full year. I’ve been volunteering at St. Stephen’s Emergency Men’s Shelter in Minneapolis every Friday for a few months. Continue Reading

“Just a nobody”: Meeting homelessness without judgement

One of gospel music’s longest running groups called The Williams Brothers sang a motivational song entitled “I’m Just a Nobody.” The soul searching chorus was embroidered into the title song with the words, “I’m just a nobody, trying to tell everybody, about somebody, who can save anybody.”

This song came to mind as I saw something not unfamiliar to most: a man holding a sign which read “Homeless Seeking Kindness – Bless You.” Continue Reading

When We Talk About “Homelessness”, What are We Really Talking About?

I start quite deliberately with the scare quotes above because it is one of my primary objectives here to articulate my discomfort with the way the term “homelessness” is conventionally used. I will argue that it is a crude and inadequately descriptive piece of shorthand that we use when we really mean visible urban poverty. I believe that our reliance on this euphemism reflects a general and problematic queasiness about confronting the real experiences of the poorest members of our community. At the same time, it diminishes our capacity to understand and adequately address the problems we are trying to describe.The Twin Cities metro area, and especially Hennepin County, offers some of the best services for homeless people available anywhere in the United States. The combination of our brutal winter climate and our somewhat unique social and political history has made our metro, perhaps paradoxically, one of the safest places to live without a permanent address. Continue Reading

How you can help celebrate Veterans Day

My brother was a homeless veteran. Since his death, Veterans Day isn’t just another meaningless federal holiday. I’m grateful that two years before my brother died, he found housing. Yet over 57,000 veterans are homeless each night, according to HUD. Sixty percent of them are in shelters, the rest un-sheltered. Nearly 5,000 are female.

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Three reasons you should see zAmya Theater’s Home Street Home Minneapolis

It’s a show of the people for the people. And it’s free. So there’s no excuse not to go and every reason to make the effort to see it; I know because I was able to catch part of a rehearsal last week.Home Street Home Minneapolis is a play about the day in the life of downtown Minneapolis through the eyes of tour guide and street musician Zeke Cooper and the people he encounters. Director Maren Ward (from Bedlam Theatre) has led the troupe, many of whom have experienced homelessness themselves, through the process of writing and performing the show. They interviewed people who spend time in Minneapolis and drew from personal experiences to create vignettes from daily downtown life. Continue Reading

ST. PAUL NOTES | Dorothy Day Center — still building, but downtown, not on East Side

The Dorothy Day Center plans to build on the East Side have been changed, after both the Payne Phalen and Dayton’s Bluff community councils voted unanimously to oppose the plans. (The St. Paul Police Federation also weighed in against the propsoed site.) So the expansion of the homeless shelter will take place downtown, on the present site and possibly also at the now-for-sale labor building at 411 Main Street.Everybody acknowledges the need for expansion. As I wrote a couple of months ago, the shelter is overflowing and the need is far greater than the space. The question is not whether to expand, but where. Continue Reading

OUR STORIES | Martín: A hidden voice

I first met Martín while tending my garden in the summer of 2012.  He is perhaps the single most humble recipient of fresh produce from my small garden, and has been for at least two summers.  My earliest recollection noticing him takes place sometime in the spring.  I was looking out my window and he was walking by my house to the park.  It was cold and rainy, and he and his three sons were going to the park to play soccer. Continue Reading