Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

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.

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.

25th annual Homeless Memorial Service & March

The 2009 Homeless Memorial March and Service is scheduled for Thursday, December 17. (Please note: this is the correct date.) The event honors those members of our community who died in 2009 while experiencing homelessness.

The puppet who leads the memorial march.Last year’s service honored a record 131 homeless and formerly homeless people, as well as homeless advocates, who died in Minnesota in 2008. On any night in Minnesota, there are at least 1,000 people out on the street. The average life expectancy in America is 77 years. The life expectancy of a person who is homeless is 47 years.

Full event details

A large puppet has led the memorial march for many years. It is a striking, solemn, sad image as it proceeds through the downtown.

Allysen Hoberg of St. Stephen’ s shelter gives a brief  history of the puppet:

Several years ago, Catholic Charities, Salvation Army Harbor Light, Simpson Housing Services, Our Saviors Shelter, St. Stephen’s Shelter, numerous people from Shelter Providers Action Association, representatives from Heart of the Beast Puppet Theatre and other art programs held a conference called “Out of the Shadows” which was specifically designed for people experiencing homelessness.

Hundreds of homeless people attended the event which was held at the parking lot for Secure Waiting and inside Harbor Light.  We created an art car, had break-out learning sessions, homeless people wrote and performed a play about the lottery with Theater of the Oppressed facilitators, and ended the day by listening to a funk band and eating BBQ.

The organizers of the event continued a conversation about changing the way people see homeless people, bringing them “Out of the Shadows” (the theme represented the fact that Currie Avenue is in the shadows of downtown, hidden by a parking ramp, and that so few people even know that each night several hundred homeless people sleep right behind the Target Center).  It translated to the idea that homeless people die often alone and estranged from their families, asleep outside under bridges, and that nighttime is an especially dangerous time for homeless people.  They have to remain hidden because it is illegal to sleep outside.

We wanted to create something solemn reflecting on the “out of the shadows” theme, that also spoke to the cold, the solstice (the day the memorial service sometimes falls on), and the deep sadness our community feels during the memorial walk.

Large paper mache puppets also represent a sort of solidarity movement, culturally connected to Minneapolis, the Heart of the Beast Theatre, etc.  Finally, the moon face on the puppet was given deeper meaning to me because many clients helped build and design it especially for the memorial service and John Luna who probably worked the hardest of any client on the puppet, passed away a few years later.  His last name (Luna) means moon.

– Allysen Hoberg
Shelter Manager, St Stephens Human Services

Hunger Solutions Minnesota launches the Minnesota Food Helpline

On June 1st of this year, Hunger Solutions Minnesota launched the Minnesota Food Helpline, a toll-free, statewide food resource information and referral call-in line.

Minnesota Food Helpline – is open 8:30-4:30, Monday through Friday. 1-888-711-1151. Multilingual phone assistance is available.

Callers can be screened for Food Support (formerly Food Stamps) eligibility and assisted with completing the application for Food Support.  The line can also assist callers in locating food resources in their own community whether it be a food shelf and or a hot meal site.

In addition, referrals can be made for other public food programs like WIC (Women, Infants and Children), MAC (Mothers and Children) and NAPS (Nutrition Assistance Program for Seniors).

Hunger Solutions Minnesota reports this:
“Here’s why the Minnesota Food Helpline is so necessary in our community:

The Number of People in Need of Food Continues to Grow. Visits to food shelves in the nine-county Metro Area increased 42% year to date in February. On average, food shelves statewide report a 31% increase in usage.

Food Support/Food Stamp Benefits Can Help Feed Families. Food Support provides low income families at risk for hunger with more choices, less stigma, self sufficiency and more consumer power.

The state of Minnesota estimates that only 68% of those that are eligible for Food Support are participating in the program.

Approximately 80% of eligible seniors are not enrolled due to a variety of barriers and misconceptions about eligibility.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, $5 in new Food Support benefits generates $9.20 in total community spending.

We want to be a resource to all Minnesotans at risk of experiencing hunger and the professionals that work with them.  No one in Minnesota should go hungry.  At the Minnesota Food Helpline, we work with callers to find both short and long-term solutions. “