Over the weekend of November 6-7, our parish Social Justice & Outreach Commission sponsored a Winter Gear Drive to benefit people experiencing homelessness or in situations where warm, quality winter gear is a financial barrier. Keep reading to learn more about the issue of homelessness and how you can take action on this issue!
Donations from the Winter Gear Drive Benefit:
· Clients of Dakota Woodlands, Eagan: which is a pathway to sustainable and independent housing for homeless women & families. They provide a continuum of supportive services like shelter, meals, education, and life skills. Learn more at dakotawoodlands.org. Did you know that this September, Risen Savior volunteers starting serving lunch once/month at their shelter?
· Community members involved in Navigation Feed, Minneapolis: which is a community-led outreach to unsheltered and impoverished people in the Phillips neighborhood. Many of the folks served by this group live in tent encampments or do not have stable housing. Several of our parishioners have passionately served meals in all weather conditions over the last few years with this group.
· Infants/children of clients at Pregnancy Choices, Apple Valley: which is a non-profit dedicated to empowering those experiencing unplanned pregnancy, sexual health concerns, and/or relational poverty. Learn more at mypregnancychoices.com.
Some points about homelessness in Minnesota:
· Homelessness increased by 10% between 2015 and 2018.
· 32% of survey respondents had been turned away from shelter in the previous 3 months due to lack of space.
· Lack of housing is the primary barrier for getting out of homelessness.
· Adults experiencing homelessness reported a median income of $550/month—less than fair-market rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in the Twin Cities ($864) and greater MN ($576).
· African American and American Indian adults are overrepresented in MN’s homeless population.
· 81% of adults experiencing homelessness have a chronic physical health condition (57%), serious mental illness (64%), or substance use disorder (24%).
*The information in this section is taken from the 2018 Minnesota Homeless Study conducted by Wilder Research every 3 years. Learn more at mnhomeless.org/Minnesota-homeless-study/homelessness-in-minnesota.php
What else can we do about this issue?
We often unconsciously carry biases or preconceptions about homelessness. Look up one of these suggested resources to learn about the research & lived experiences of homelessness.
Encounter those who are currently experiencing homelessness/housing instability
Consider volunteering with an organization that serves people experiencing homelessness. Risen Savior volunteers monthly with:
· Loaves and Fishes: preparing and serving a meal the 3rd Thursday/monthly at Holy Rosary, Minneapolis
· Dakota Woodlands: preparing and serving lunch the 1st Saturday/monthly at the Eagan shelter
*Contact Grace Koleczek, Adult Faith Formation & Social Justice Coordinator, for more information on these opportunities. 952-698-1724 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not able to volunteer? Consider looking up one of the videos below to hear firsthand accounts from people who’ve experienced homelessness.
· “Housing Instability: In our own words” from Twin Cities Catholic Charities
· Family Stories from Habitat for Humanity
Advocate on behalf of the needs of the homeless and unsheltered
Your voice matters! Contact your elected officials and show your support of efforts aimed at eliminating homelessness and funding resources for those experiencing homelessness. The following organizations list their policy priorities and even allow you to sign up for ‘action alerts’ when your voice is especially needed.
· Catholic Charities Twin Cities: cctwincities.org
· Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless: mnhomelesscoalition.org
· MICAH (Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing): micah.org
We know that none of us can solve complex social issues singlehandedly. But we can pray for wisdom, courage, and guidance to allow ourselves to be open to doing what we can AND to ask God to be present with those experiencing homelessness. May our eyes be opened to how Jesus is present to us in our neighbors–including those who are unsheltered.