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Monthly Archives: July 2011
Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness
Friday, July 15, 2011
IMMEDIATE ACTION: Take Action RIGHT NOW to Protect Poorest Minnesotans!
The Message: Possible Budget Deal In the Works?
Talking Points: Please call Governor Dayton right now and ask say: “Please protect General Assistance and MFIP in the final budget”. If you have your own message or stories, please share them in your message!
Background: Governor Dayton has offered to accept the legislature’s June 30th budget offer using education shifts and money from the tobacco settlement to balance the budget. Now is our chance to remind the Governor how important it is to care for the poorest Minnesotans.
The Courts ruled this month that General Assistance and the Minnesota Family Investment Program are both essential functions of Government. You know that from experience. We see everyday how GA and MFIP help get folks back on their feet. It would be especially painful if these programs were decimated.
Governor Dayton and the Legislature will be making major budget decisions in the next few days.
After months of hard work, we may be in the final stages – your call or email today is critical in protecting Minnesota’s most vulnerable citizens.
Please let Heidi Johnson McAllister at firstname.lastname@example.org know when you make the call. Your information will not be used or shared.
In order to end homelessness and poverty, it takes political will for a community to solve a problem. Plymouth believes in encouraging action and advocacy to help create this change.At Plymouth Congregational, annual social activism campaigns get their members educated as well as involving members in the solutions to end homelessness; the campaigns have been an extension of their work to create affordable, stable, safe housing for low income members of the community.
Inspired by Heading Home Hennepin’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, Plymouth created Heading Home Plymouth, a spin off from Heading Home Hennepin and a movement focused on engaging members to take action to help end homelessness. For a few years, Heading Home Plymouth regularly informed and engaged their members through the Take Five Table and action alerts. In fall of 2010, Heading Home Plymouth launched a campaign in addition to the promotion of action alerts, to get people involved on a broader scale. The campaign was called Journey to Housing Justice. Journey to Housing Justice used a passport format as a guide, offering options and guidance for different ways to reach out. Options included things such as education, contacting state Legislators, and other community activities. For each action completed, individuals would have their passports stamped. The incentive offered was that if 75 individuals complete 5 actions, $5,000 dollars would be donated to the Plymouth Church Neighborhood Foundation.
The passport campaign went from November 2010 to May 2011. By offering a guide book to putting faith into action around homelessness, it made advocacy easier and, according to Jan Neville, an active member of Plymouth, “The guide book made the members feel connected to the campaign and to others doing it. Almost 600 actions were recorded done.” Plymouth far surpassed their goal!
This spring, Plymouth along with their Westminster Presbyterian partner, celebrated the opening of Nicollet Square! Together, these partners worked with Plymouth Church Neighborhood Foundation to create affordable, supportive housing for young adults aged 16-21. Twenty of the 42 youth living at Nicollet Square are long term homeless and 22 have aged out of foster care.
The passion at Plymouth goes well beyond the work through the Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness and Plymouth Church Neighborhood Foundation. Plymouth houses the Groveland Food Shelf that three other congregations provide food for distribution to young people and families in the neighborhood, has a drop-in for people with mental illness, and a Sunday night supper for people homeless and nearly homeless. Plymouth also delivers Meals on Wheels and supports Habitat for Humanity.
Neville stated, “As a congregation, we are made up of individuals who care about issues and want to get involved and work for change.” For so long, congregants have been active in seeking justice for those one the margins of society. Social activism is ingrained in the fabric of Plymouth Congregational Church and will continue to be a player in the fight to end homelessness.
After a full and tumultuous legislative session, we have come to the end with a Government Shutdown and a Special Session. The special session began on yesterday, July 19, at 3:00pm. Working quickly and into the evening and early morning, the Minnesota Legislature passed spending bills, which went to the Governor this morning, July 20, for his signature, thus ending the shut-down.
Our work this session was to ensure funding for programs remain intact that work to prevent and end homelessness, in spite of a $5 billion budget deficit. We advocated for all homeless program funding, for General Assistance, and for Minnesota Family Investment Program. In this regard, our voices have been heard as homeless programs fared well in the final budgets.
On Homeless Programs in the Health and Human Services Budget:
- Family Homeless Prevention & Assistance Program – base level funding protected;
- Emergency Services Grant – base level funding protected;
- Transitional Housing Grant – base level funding protected;
- Runaway & Homeless Youth Act – base level funding protected;
- Long-Term Homeless Support Services Fund – base level funding protected (although $2.3 million in one-time funding was not renewed);
- Housing Trust Fund – base level funding protected, with an additional $2 million added to the base;
- Group Residential Housing – base level funding protected;
- General Assistance – $203/month cash grant protected, but now requires 45 days of being ill or incapacitated for eligibility rather than 30 days;
- Defeat of the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP)/Supplimental Support Income (SSI) Penalty – cash grants protected, no SSI penalty imposed;
- Defeat of the restrictions to parents on MFIP to receive training and education.
- Medicaid Expansion – signed into law extending health care benefits to the former GAMC population.
During the shut-down, our partners worked tirelessly to ensure that Homeless Programs were listed as essential services. Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless and Heading Home Minnesota argued in front of Judge Gearin to name the following programs essential ruled and core functions of government and essential to the health and safety of Minnesotans:
- Emergency Services;
- Transitional Housing;
- Long-Term Homeless Support Services;
- Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program;
- Runaway & Homeless Youth Act;
- Homeless Prevention & Rapid Re-Housing;
- HUD – ESGP;
- Support Services for Rural Homeless Youth
This year we did advocate for a fair and balanced approach to solving the budget deficit. Unfortunately, revenues were not raised in the final budget bills. Instead, money was used from a tobacco fund and with education shifts so as not to raise revenues. Not raising taxes in a fair and balanced way will leave us with problems to deal with in the future with education shirts and cuts to needed programs like child care, health care, mental health care, and transportation.
Thanks to great advocates!
This work has been possible only because so many people came together around a common purpose. Raising our voices is an important aspect of living out our faiths and working for the common good. Your participating in contacting your legislators, encouraging friends to contact their legislators, writing letters to the editor, showing up at the capitol, putting up a lawn sign and much more was a reason the final budget bills included the programs essential to helping people move out of homelessness and prevent homelessness. Thank you, thank you for sticking with speaking up regardless of the tough conversations and frustrations!
This session, our work was to protecting funding; next session and beyond, we will work tirelessly and strategically to end homelessness. We know that working together in a well-coordinated campaign, with active participation, and in partnership together, we will raise our voices and do good things.
Thank you for all you do!