Cabrini Partnership, a nonprofit organization licensed by Hennepin County to provide housing and services for homeless adults with mental illness and chemical dependency, asked Minnesota’s three major gubernatorial candidates their views on homeless.
The questions were these: “What is your stance on the issues surrounding homelessness in Minnesota? What plans would be implemented to improve the condition of our homeless population?”
Here are their responses:
Mark Dayton, DFL:
In the wealthiest country in the world, it is unacceptable that so many Minnesota adults and children have no place to live. No Minnesotan should have to sleep outside, in an abandoned building, or in a car.
Every Minnesotan should have a safe, decent, affordable place to live. I embrace the goal of Heading Home Minnesota: to end homelessness in Minnesota by 2016. With commitment and concerted action, Minnesota can end long-term homelessness and ensure that every family has a roof over their head and a bed to sleep in.
I will work to address homelessness in two ways: preventing homelessness and providing support and capacity building for the nearly 10,000 people in Minnesota who are already homeless.
The Wilder Foundation estimates that 44% of homeless adults are on a waiting list for public housing. Wilder also reports that 40% of the homeless population say that changes to their employment was the main event that caused them to lose their housing. Only 20% of the homeless population is employed. So we must create job opportunities for homeless Minnesotans, and also stop the destructive tide of foreclosures that forces people into homelessness. I have a strong agenda for putting Minnesotans back to work, which is available on my website, www.MarkDayton.org.
The best way to end homelessness is to prevent it in the first place. People need affordable housing choices. I will restore cuts made to property tax relief programs including the Renters Credit and restore the state’s financial commitment to cities and counties so that rising property taxes don’t force any Minnesotans out of their homes. I will charge the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency with developing new initiatives to give low-income people more affordable housing options.
To help those who are unfortunately already homeless, I will work to restore Governor Pawlenty’s destructive cuts to Group Residential Housing, County Mental Health Grants, Chemical Dependency Grants, and other supportive services.
Heading Home Minnesota has established best practices for ending homelessness: outreach to homeless people to get them the services they need; support to keep people in housing once they are off the street; providing people with the skills and training they need to get on their feet. Those strategies work. As Governor, I will work with the many exceptional people and organizations dedicated to ending homelessness, support their heroic efforts, and rely upon their expertise to guide my initiatives.
Tom Emmer, Republican:
There are two broad categories of homelessness. On one hand, you have people who have hit economic hard times and have lost their home or apartment. They need a job, help from their neighbors, their community, their church, or their family. They need temporary help from the government to get over a hump, not long-term services.
Long-term homelessness is not primarily an economic problem. This deals mainly with people with drug abuse or mental illness problems—problems not primarily economic, but social or medical and much more difficult. I would like to continue to deal with the homeless as whole people with multifaceted problems.
We can and should provide support services, encourage churches and charities to do outreach, and try to help people one by one. Our top priorities are clear: creating jobs through a better business climate, and improving education through accountability and reform. We know how to do those things, and they will have the greatest impact on Minnesotans’ quality of life and future prosperity.
Tom Horner, Independence Party:
I have done a lot of work on issues affecting homeless Minnesotans, both in my professional and community service careers. Homelessness is an issue we know how to solve; we need the political will and leadership to get it done. Minnesota has made progress in providing shelters for homeless individuals and families, although the recession has put a strain on these resources. But beyond the housing options, Minnesota’s homeless population needs the opportunity to live sustainable, independent lives. That will take jobs, supportive services and access to health care. With these initiatives, homeless families and individuals will have the opportunity to get on their feet, to live productive lives and to keep themselves and their families healthy. Children of families who are homeless or have unstable housing situations also will be able to stay in school and gain the education they need to break the cycle of poverty. These efforts are gaining broader support from a broad range of Minnesotans, including businesses, because they have a real pay-off—stable families and lower public safety and social services costs.
My budget proposal includes new funds for supportive services and for the early opt-in to Medicaid, allowing greater access to health coverage. With these investments, homeless Minnesotans can get the care they need, job training and gain the skills they need to live independent, productive lives.