Save GA, EGA, and MFIP

After a year-long fight on General Assistance Medical Care, the Governor is proposing to:

  • Eliminate General Assistance – that provides $203 a month in income support to adults unable to work because of very serious illness or disability.
  • Take income assistance away from 7,000 families who have a parent or child with disabilities and are on the Minnesota Family Investment Program, leaving those families to live on disability support only at deep poverty levels. (Another 900 families in which the parent of a child with disabilities or the spouse of someone with disabilities would lose all or much of their child care assistance, jeopardizing their ability to continue working.)

Emergency General Assistance which provides one-time emergency help to keep adults from becoming homeless or for those who are homeless to get re-established in stable housing has been unallotted.

The Minnesota House Health & Human Services Committee will be deciding in the next few days whether to accept or reject the Governor’s proposals.  If your legislator is on that committee, call her or him this week.  Find out who represents you.

Tell your representative: “Please protect funding for General Assistance, Emergency General Assistance, and MFIP families.”

Members of the committee:

Rep Tom Anzelc, Balsam Township rep.tom.anzelc@house.mn
Rep Julie Bunn, Lake Elmo rep.julie.bunn@house.mn
Rep Patti Fritz, Faribault rep.patti.fritz@house.mn
Rep Jeff Hayden, Minneapolis rep.jeff.hayden@house.mn
Rep Larry Hosch, St. Joseph rep.larry.hosch@house.mn
Rep Thomas Huntley, Duluth rep.thomas.huntley@house.mn
Rep Tina Liebling, Rochester rep.tina.liebling@house.mn
Rep Erin Murphy, St. Paul rep.erin.murphy@house.mn
Rep Mary Ellen Otremba, Long Prairie rep.maryellen.otremba@house.mn
Rep Sandra Peterson, New Hope rep.sandra.peterson@house.mn
Rep Maria Ruud, Minnetonka rep.maria.ruud@house.mn
Rep Bev Scalze, Little Canada rep.bev.scalze@house.mn
Rep Nora Slawik, Maplewood rep.nora.slawik@house.mn
Rep Cy Thao, St. Paul rep.cy.thao@house.mn
Rep Paul Thissen, Minneapolis rep.paul.thissen@house.mn

Honor a great women in your life and help women currently experiencing homelessness

Women experiencing homelessness would give anything to:

  • Make coffee in their own kitchen
  • Do their own laundry
  • Sweep Cheerios from the floor
  • Plant tulips near their front door

At the Simpson Women’s Housing Partnership and Simpson Women’s Shelter, we work tirelessly to help homeless women find a safe and permanent place to call home.

If you contribute to these worthy programs by May 3, we’ll send this beautiful gift card to a great woman or mother of your choice, just in time for Mother’s Day.

View gift card

Today, honor the dreams of all women and mothers for a safe place
to call home.

Go here for more details.

Runners unite to help people experiencing homelessness

If you run, you can help raise funds to help people experiencing homelessness. A group of runners and Simpson supporters are leading the cause.

Whatever race you choose to participate in 2010, do so on behalf of the homeless served by Simpson Housing Services. The Simpson Housing Run is a fundraising campaign to support you in raising money to end homelessness in the Twin Cities.

Go to www.simpsonhousingrun.org for more info.

Monica Nilsson was the speaker at the 25th annual Homeless Memorial

Monica Nilsson

Monica Nilsson was the speaker at the 25th annual Homeless Memorial.

Monica walked into Simpson Housing Services Shelter late one night in 1994 for her first shift as an overnight volunteer and couldn’t believe that there were rows and rows of sleeping human beings on foam mats at her feet. She spent many more nights at Simpson as a staff member and later opened the Simpson Women’s Shelter in 1999 before leaving in 2004 to go to The Bridge, a sanctuary for runaway and homeless youth.

In 2007, she joined Hearth Connection, working with providers serving long-term homeless families, singles and youth in Duluth, the Iron Range and on reservations. Currently, Monica serves as Director of Street Outreach for St. Stephen’s Human Services, working primarily with people who are sleeping outside. She is also Board President of the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, a coalition of 150 organizations serving those who are currently experiencing homelessness.

Read Monica’s talk from the service:

OUR LITTLE TOWN NEAR THE BIG CITY

For those of you who have never been here, welcome to our little town near the big city.  We settled here 25 years ago when we didn’t belong anywhere else.  We needed a place to do what our ancestors did: rest after a hard day, eat, visit, comfort the sick, bury the dead.  Despite our differences, we came from people who farmed the land: the Natives, the Irish, the African American-some who did so to survive, some because they were the commodity traded.  But what our ancestors taught us is that while tough times don’t last, tough people do.  And some came to our little town during their tough time: for a week or a month or a very long time. And despite the community’s wishes, some people died here.

The Natives taught us to recognize our people in the four stages of life:  the babies, the youth, the adults, the elders.  Wendy was alone here, so she became part of our extended family; someone had to watch out for her, naturally, and if you’ve known love, you give some back.  John and Adam didn’t make it to town much, they lived on the outskirts, so some of the townspeople made home visits, to the woods.  Patrick didn’t feel well – but in our town everyone can see the doctor-or sometimes she’s a kind nurse-but despite the community’s wishes, some people still died.  Sometimes it’s their spirit that’s broken-and the townspeople were too busy needing to convince the politicians or the bank to spend time visiting with the lonely.

Every year, there are new people here: some of you arrived with everything you need; some of you came off the road with nothing.  No one is bothered that Brian sits in the public square all day-because in our little town nobody has to hold a sign that says, “I need help”.  We can see who does because we take the time to stop and look each other in the eye.

Some of those who founded this town have passed on but they left us with valuable lessons: Mary acted kind of crazy…but she taught us to accept people as they are; we all knew that one day we might be the one who acts kind of crazy and we want to belong too.  There were those who took to the drink or the pipe. They belong here too.  We thought we knew who the needy were because we could see theirs but guess what? They can see ours too. They see who needs a break, who needs a good laugh, which of us needs to swallow our pride and ask for help.  Our town strives to have someone available when someone needs to vent, needs to feel like they’re contributing or just needs someone to listen to them and not say a word.  We all need a soft place to land.  Sometimes that soft place is an address, sometimes it’s a person.  So, we all need to tell people they’re special before they’re gone.

And everyone needs to feel protected, defended. So the strong would do so: at home, in the community or far, far away. Some protected family or strangers or country.  Most who went far away came back healthy, to love and purpose, maybe even a parade. Some came home and the next battle began.  And despite the community’s wishes, some still died.

And so once a year, our town holds its own parade with banners and signs- but this one is at night-and no one lines the sidewalks to watch-because the whole town is marching down main street.  If not, they are back at the church getting supper ready – not dinner but supper, we’re a small town after all.  Others are creating sanctuary.

You see, at least once a year everyone gathers to pray: the Jews, the Christians, the Muslims, even a Mennonite.  There are the spiritual who wonder why there are so many religions. They don’t claim one… but they still have the faith. It’s said that religion without right action is anathema to God.  Our little town is faith…in action.

Our little town doesn’t have a newspaper so we don’t have obituaries, so, we rely on the ones who remember the stories and re-tell them to keep the deceased present.

Before I go, I have to tell you that I won’t be seeing you at the 50th anniversary of the founding of our little town.  You see, in 25 years, the babies will live in a place where they watch candles shine…on their birthday cakes at their own kitchen tables.  Youth will set fire…to bottle rockets and sparklers in their own backyards.  Adults will look each other in the eye by the glow of candlelight in friendship or romance across their own living rooms.  And elders will settle in for the night – not on dirt or a mat on the floor but in their own bedrooms, where they’re not afraid to fall asleep, and the glimmer of a single candle will provide peace and calm from the nightstand.  No, we won’t be seeing each other at the 50th anniversary because in 25 years, this little place will be a ghost town.

25th annual Homeless Memorial was a huge event

The 25th annual Homeless Memorial drew record crowds as people came together to honor and remember members of the community who died while homeless in 2009. Formerly homeless and advocates for the homeless were also remembered.

Over 400 participated in the march and over 700 attended the memorial service. We believe this to be a record attendance. Read a little history on the memorial service:

A history of the Homeless Memorial

Eric was a frequent guest in the early days of the Simpson Men’s Shelter. He was a quiet, somewhat shy Vietnam war veteran and even though he pretty much kept to himself, everyone knew and loved Eric. In the summer of 1984, days had passed since shelter staff and volunteers had seen him. This happened from time to time. No one thought too much of it. A few days later they got the news that Eric’s body had been found by the railroad tracks nearby. He had been beaten to death.

Simpson staff and volunteers had witnessed many people experiencing homelessness who die without anyone honoring their life. Simpson United Methodist’s pastor and shelter staff, volunteers, and Eric’s family members gathered shortly after he was found to honor his life, as well as the lives of a few other people they knew who had died that year. It was an important moment for all, including his family. They were happy to see that he had support and a community in his life. From that point forward, a nearby house that was a transitional home to three men at the time was affectionately referred to by Simpson staff and volunteers as “Eric’s House.”

The Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless (MCH) heard that Simpson had held the service and proposed that it become a larger event, including names of as many people as they could gather. In December of 1984, the first official Minnesota homeless memorial was held, launching the collaboration between Simpson and MCH that exists to this day. Unidentified people began to be included throughout the years, as it was presumed that these people were, quite likely, homeless.

In the early years, the memorial was always held on December 21 (the winter solstice, the beginning of winter, and the longest night of the year) to coincide with the National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day designated by the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH). The event eventually transitioned to be held on the third Thursday in December, as this proved to be the most well-attended night.

The lighting of an individual candle with the reading of each person’s name was a unique aspect of the Minnesota event and has since been replicated by other memorials. In the early years when funding was especially tight, there were plans to re-use candles from one year to the next, but Carla Gainey, Simpson Executive Director from 1987-1997, was adamant that new candles be purchased every year. “Everyone should have their own candle.” This practice continues to this day.

In the mid 1990s, the march was added to the schedule for the evening. The Shelter Providers Action Association (newly formed to help combat funding cuts at a time when homelessness was increasing) began organizing the march portion of the memorial to help raise awareness of the issue of homelessness. It was initially a protest but gently grew into a silent vigil.

Marchers carry individual signs with the name, age, and hometown of every person being honored. One of the first years of the march, a Duluth woman travelled to the service. Her mother was homeless and had been murdered. To see her name on a sign was a moving experience for her. This started a tradition of allowing people to take the signs that displayed the name of a person they knew who had died.

One year, area churches rang their bells just before the service and one year religious leaders signed a Declaration of Human Dignity before the march. For several years, green and purple ribbons were available for people to wear. People were spotted wearing ribbons for months afterwards.

In recent years, the reading of the names has been divided into currently and formerly homeless as more and more people are moving into house.

Ninijanisag Drum Group from the Ain Dah Yung Center will open 25th annual memorial service

The Ninijanisag Drum Group from the Ain Dah Yung Center was a moving highlight from last year’s memorial service. We are thrilled that they will be returning this year and will open the service.

Full event details.

Ain Dah Yung, which means “Our Home” in the Ojibwe language, is a culturally based organization whose mission is to strengthen American Indian youth and families.

Ain Dah Yung has been serving the community since 1991 and their programs include an emergency shelter (for youth ages 5-17), a transitional living program for youth ages 16-21 (the Beverly A. Benjamin Youth Lodge), a family counseling and mental health services program (Oyate Nawajin), and a street outreach program.

The Ninijanisag (Our Children) Program was launched in 1993 to combat the strikingly high rates of violence, chemical use and abuse, suicide, and other self-compromising behaviors among American Indian youth.

Ninijanisag teaches youth ages 10-21 problem-solving, leadership, and communication skills in a community and cultural context.

Traditional American Indian cultural activities are offered weekly and include drum and dance, sweat lodge, traditional crafts, and traditional talking circles.

Leadership opportunities include public speaking, mentoring, and planning community cultural events. The long-term impact of Ninijanisag is to provide American Indian youth with cultural and community connections to sustain them and deter them from substance abuse, crime, violent behaviors, suicidal ideations, and other self compromising behaviors.

Longtime advocate for the homeless community Monica Nilsson to speak at memorial

The 25th annual Homeless Memorial March and Service is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 17. Visit www.simpsonhousing.org/memorial for all the details.

Monica Nilsson, lontime advocate for the homeless community will be speaking at the service. A little background on Monica:

Monica Nilsson walked into Simpson Shelter late one night in 1994 for her first shift as an overnight volunteer and couldn’t believe that there were rows and rows of sleeping human beings on foam mats at her feet. She spent many more nights at Simpson and later opened Simpson’s Women’s Shelter in 1999 before leaving in 2004 to go to The Bridge, a sanctuary for runaway and homeless youth.

In 2007, she joined Hearth Connection, working with providers serving long-term homeless families, singles and youth in Duluth, the Iron Range and on reservations. Currently, Monica serves as Director of Street Outreach for St. Stephen’s Human Services, working primarily with people who are sleeping outside. She is also Board President of the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, a coalition of 150 organizations serving those who experience homelessness.

Monica has learned that every person you meet knows something you don’t, that you need to schedule thinking and that if we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back. She learned all that from youth and single adults and families experiencing homelessness.