May 2020 Letter to legislators re Youth building homes for homeless

May 2020 Statement to legislators about youth helping to build houses for the homeless:

To help strengthen ALL of Minnesota, we strongly urge that

1.Minnesota’s bonding bill include as one of its priorities, construction of permanent, affordable housing for Minnesota’s homeless, especially for families with children, youth and teen parents with one or more children.

2. High schools and colleges be eligible, along with other organizations that have built homes in the past, to apply for funds appropriated by the legislature.

A variety of organizations tell us that they have “shovel ready” projects ready to go if there is state support. Wilder and other researchers have found there are homeless youth and families throughout the state – about 1/3 in greater Minnesota, 1/3 in Twin Cities suburbs and 1/3 in Minneapolis St Paul. Constructing permanent housing is vital if Minnesota is going to dramatically reduce the number of homeless families.  The solution to homelessness is homes.

 There’s a threefold benefit if the legislature does this.

  1. Health benefit: Research by a respected Minnesota doctor shows providing permanent housing for homeless helps reduce health care costs.
  2. Economic benefit: Done correctly, housing the homeless saves money that would otherwise be spent on public safety, health care, and social services. Bonding also will help provide jobs that are urgently need.
  3. Workforce shortage: Some Minnesota programs are training high school and college students to build homes – some even building homes for homeless. Construction trades report significant shortages  Students in the Anoka Hennepin district, for example, have been building homes for more than 20 years.  Their total cost is less than $100,000 for a 3 bedroom home.

We should not be content with shelters which are a valuable but short term response. A Wilder Foundation report released earlier this year found

  • “A lack of housing is the primary reason for homelessness”
  • Children experiencing homelessness face added barriers to positive social emotional and academic outcomes.
  • More than 1/3 of homeless adults first became homeless at or before age 18
  • 37% of homeless adults are African American, 34% are white, and 12% are American Indian – both African American and American Indian are significantly over-represented.

The Minnesota Dept of Education reports: “Homelessness disproportionally impacts students of color. Seventy-two percent of students facing homelessness are students of color. American Indian students are over-represented among students experiencing homelessness by a factor of 6.1. Black students are over-represented by a factor of 4.5. Homelessness also disproportionately impacts students with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LBGTQ) youth.”

However, homeless youth are found throughout the state – from Hayfield to Hopkins,  Robbinsdale to Rochester, International Falls to Isanti.

Please consider making permanent affordable housing a high priority for bonding.

Dr. Candice M. Ames,  Pine City School Board Member, 50 years in education

Juan Bowen, M.D. Rochester, Minnesota

Lincoln Bacal, Twin Cities Changemakers Founder and high school senior

Nancy Jane Bitenc, Co-founder, United for Action

Walter Covina, Bridgemakers Founder, Director and High School Junior

Ed Felien, Editor, SouthSide Pride

Hanna Getachew-Kreusser, MA, Executive Director, Face to Face Health and Counseling

Patti Haasch, retired public school principal, volunteer MAAP STARS chair

Greg Herder, Board Chair, National Youth Leadership Council

Roxanne Holst, Parent Hayfield High School

Wayne Jennings, Retired principal, author, School Transformation

Thomas E. Kottke, MD, MSPH, Immediate Past President, Twin Cities Medical Society

George Latimer, Mayor, St Paul, 1976-1990

Jane Leonard, President, Growth & Justice

Shawn Lewis, GCDF (Global Career Development Facilitator), Consultant

Jonette Lucia, MMA, Luce Consulting

Roy Magnuson, Public Information Officer, Ramsey County Sheriff’s Officer

Liz Turbridge McCambridge, Retired SPPS Teacher and Social Activist

Joe Nathan, Director, Center for School Change

Jane Prince, St. Paul City Council Member, Ward 7

John Poupart, Founder and President, American Indian Policy Center

Khalique Rogers, University of Minnesota student

Jon Schroeder, former publisher, Grant County Herald

Tony Simmons, Executive Director, High School for Recording Arts

Mary Kay Sloan, Member Pine City, Mn City Council

Linda Slocum, 25 year public school teacher and 12 year State Representative

Joan Sorenson

Danielle Swift, Community Organizer

Rashad Turner, founder, executive director, Minnesota Parent Union

Mary Anne Wark, retired educator, attorney, non-profit volunteer

Wokie Weah, President, Youthprise

Nelsie Yang, Saint Paul Council Member Ward 6

Andrew R. Zinkel, MD, MBA, Emergency Physician, St. Paul