Members of the “Commission to End Homelessness” are on pace to meet their deadline for a plan to eliminate homelessness - or at least substantially decrease it - in Minneapolis and Hennepin County throughout the next decade.
The recently formed commission consisting of city and county leaders, philanthropists, business leaders and others, has been developing the plan since March with the goal of completing it by July. At a meeting on June 16, the commission had a rough draft in hand.
The draft encompassed six major goals: prevention, stabilized housing, increased incomes and access to transportation, outreach, service delivery and system improvements.
“It's been lots of hard work by lots of people,” said Cathy ten Broeke, the city-county coordinator to end homelessness. For the meeting, she joined Mayor R.T. Rybak, Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman and about 50 other Commission to End Homelessness members to go over the plan.
Ten Broeke said the first goal, prevention, is especially important. “The best plans around the county have focused around prevention,” she said.
The essence of prevention, as described in the draft, is preventing youth, families and single adults from losing their current housing or becoming homeless after leaving public systems, like orphanages. Ten Broeke said that right now, more than half of homeless youth have come out of a public system.
Many recommendations in the draft plan also fell under the goal of providing stable housing, including the production of about 5,000 new “housing opportunities” throughout the next decade. Opportunities would include building new housing and creating a host family program for homeless youth.
The commission also recommends adding 60 emergency shelter beds for homeless youth in the city and suburbs. “We need that today,” said Monica Nilsson, director of community development for The Bridge, an Uptown resource center for youth.
On any given night, Hennepin County shelters approximately 2,400 homeless men, women and children, ten Broeke has said. An additional 400 people sleep on the streets each night.
Another innovative recommendation that appeared several times in the report is the institutionalization of “system navigators,” specialists who help guide homeless people through the intricacies of assistance programs. They would, for example, help evicted people find alternative housing or help them maneuver through healthcare systems.
During the meeting, participants made suggestions about improving the draft's language, but there were few to no objections. “There's a lot in here that we can make happen,” Rybak said. “All of it needs to happen.”
Before their final meeting on July 12, commission members will receive a final plan to vote on and work to determine the future course of action for the program, including a method for receiving public comment, receiving finance reports and choosing a name for the program. “There's clearly more work to be done over the next 26 days,” Dorfman said.