Unfinished business

Whittier group unveils newspaper for homeless community

Terry Goudy had a lot of questions when he was homeless.

He ended up on the streets at the age of 12 and was without a home for much of his adolescent and adult life. Finding food, shelter, medical care and a way to turn his life around proved to be a tremendous challenge, he said.

“There are a lot of things that just aren’t addressed,” Goudy said. “You don’t get a how-to book on where you should go.”

Goudy was eventually able to find stable housing, but was frustrated by the lack of helpful information available to thousands of people in Minneapolis who hadn’t. About a year ago, Goudy shared his concerns with Homeless Against Homelessness (HAH), a small group he co-founded in March 2005. The organization is run through St. Stephens Catholic Church in Whittier and consists mostly of formerly homeless individuals.

After a little brainstorming, the group decided to create a newspaper specifically for people experiencing homelessness. The first issue – filled mostly with educational articles offering tips such as where to get a bus pass and how to sign up for a free voicemail box – was published in September and a second was planned to go out Dec. 4.

The four-page paper was dubbed Unfinished Business because Goudy said HAH believes homelessness is an unsolved problem. Unfinished Business is paid for through HAH fundraising efforts and is distributed by hand at local shelters. HAH members are the paper’s primary authors, but they hope to eventually feature regular story contributions from the homeless community.

Most HAH members are not far removed from that community. Their experiences have made them well aware of the troubles facing the homeless in Minneapolis and what information could be helpful.

HAH member Beverly Jimerson remembers how tough it was to communicate with prospective employers without a phone when she was homeless. A story about Twin Cities Community Voicemail, written by fellow HAH member Dale Thomas, would have made her life much easier, she said.

“There are a lot of things in the newspaper that would have steered me in a different direction,” Jimerson said.

Jimerson contributed to the first issue of Unfinished Business. Her byline can be found under a short piece about how HAH member Adriane Velasquez turned her life around after five years of drug abuse and living on the streets. Velasquez, who found an apartment about a month ago, said she is hopeful the story will inspire someone experiencing homelessness to make a change.

“I’m hoping they will find something in their heart to get off the street,” she said. “Nothing is going to come to them.”

Velasquez said many people experiencing homelessness have too much pride to speak with anyone about it. She said she didn’t want to talk to anyone about her situation, but she would have read a paper like Unfinished Business if one were available.

Cathy ten Broeke, the city-county coordinator of a plan to end homelessness in the area in 10 years, said newspapers for people experiencing homelessness have existed in the past, but none of them have stuck. She is hopeful HAH’s effort, the only one of its kind in the city, will have a long life.

Mikkel Beckmen, executive director of human Services at St. Stephens, said he believes the paper could have a broader impact than intended.

“Beyond just giving practical information, it has the potential to communicate what’s happening in the homeless community.”

HAH organizer and St. Stephen’s human rights worker Joshua Lang said the group hopes to publish Unfinished Business about once a month, but no specific publication dates are set. The paper has been distributed at St. Stephen’s, Simpson Housing Services, Salvation Army, Hope Street Shelter and others.

“We’d like to get everywhere,” Lang said.

Goudy said HAH is humble about the paper, but eager to see what it can do for people experiencing life as he did years ago.

“Something like this would have saved me a lot of stops,” Goudy said.

 

Jake Weyer can be reached at 436-4367 and [email protected].