St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman is convening a task force to examine and recommend solutions to homelessness in St. Paul. He has tapped two leaders, Carleen Rhodes of the Minnesota Community Foundation and Matt Kramer, president of the Chamber to get things done.
They understand that homelessness is not what it was 20 years ago or even 10 years ago. We need new strategies, although some of the old ones may still have value. The community stands ready to help them in producing a good plan, one that Kramer says “will not sit on a shelf.” Good decision, Mayor.
This semester a class of graduate students at Hamline University worked on a blueprint to end poverty. Their framework might be useful to the task force.
Highlights of the plan are:
Build wealth. Develop a community where all families and individuals have equal opportunities and resources needed to earn a living wage and build assets. Increasing the minimum wage and expanding opportunities to build wealth would help reduce poverty.
Provide affordable housing. Safe, affordable housing is a key to so many other areas. One needs an address to get a job, go to school, maintain health, and be in a safe and secure environment.
Expand education and job training. Create lifelong education and job training opportunities from early childhood through adulthood. Education and training increases human capital for the entire community. To break the cycle of poverty there must be an expansion of education and training, especially for youth and young adults.
Ensure services and support services. There should be a safety net and services like health care, counseling, skills training, chemical dependency and re-entry services should be available and accessible.
Create community. The community should strive toward providing equal opportunity for all, develop and empower connections that improve the lives of each individual while increasing the success of the community of the whole. Myths about poverty should be dispelled and causes of poverty explored. People should be aware of the assets and resources available in the community.
The class worked for and supported the Home for All legislation this session. Passage of these proposals would be a good start toward implementing a blueprint and launching the task force.
Jim Scheibel is Executive in Residence, School of Business, Hamline University. He is a former mayor of St. Paul and former vice president of CNCS. He serves on the board of Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota.
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