Home: A foundation for everything in life

| Kathy Tomlin | February 27, 2014 | 0 Comments
Kathy Tomlin

Kathy Tomlin

Home is where we start and end our days. It’s where we keep our belongings safe, create healthy meals, have space to be alone, entertain family and friends, deal with distress, and prepare for our future.

Home is the foundation for stable individuals and families, strong communities and a competitive state.

Many of our clients at Catholic Charities do not have homes. Among other places, they sleep on mats at the Dorothy Day Center in St. Paul, just inches apart from each other. They have nowhere to keep their belongings, to cook, to be alone, to entertain, and to prepare for what comes next. We know we can and must do better.

The solution to homelessness is a home. With this in mind, top policy items for Catholic Charities this 2014 legislative session focus on the creation of affordable housing, dignified emergency shelter and services to help people find a home.

We have the opportunity to fund these needs during this year’s bonding session.

To accomplish this, Catholic Charities is working as a lead member of Homes for All, a statewide coalition of organizations representing a continuum of shelter and housing providers. Together, this coalition seeks increased state funding for programs and other investments that benefit people at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness.

This legislative session, Homes for All is advocating for a $100 million investment in affordable housing construction and rehabilitation projects around the state. From the Wilder Foundation’s research, we know that for every $1 invested in supportive housing, the state receives $1.44 back in saved costs in other areas like health care.

In addition to this critical statewide investment, we are advocating for urgent investments needed to address the mounting crisis at the Dorothy Day Center in St. Paul.

Just before Christmas, a task force convened by St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman issued a report recommending a new vision for the Dorothy Day Center.

The Dorothy Day Center ReVision plan (DorothyDayReVision.org) is not simply about replacing Dorothy Day — which is overwhelmed and undignified — it is an entirely new approach that will bring greater dignity, permanent homes and pathways out of homelessness.

The Dorothy Day Center ReVision has three key components, each its own separate building: a dignified emergency shelter connected to permanent homes; permanent affordable housing; and a daytime Connection Center to provide people with the support and resources they need to escape or avoid homelessness.

The first building will be modeled on Catholic Charities’ Higher Ground in Minneapolis, which opened about a year and a half ago. Higher Ground includes emergency shelter, pay-for-stay shelter and permanent supportive housing in one building.

This innovative, nation-leading model has been incredibly successful, providing more dignified living options and more permanent solutions for the chronically homeless. It is time to bring this model to St. Paul.

The Dorothy Day Center ReVision isn’t only about new buildings — it’s about better services and opportunities to meet the needs of our clients.

To build the Connection Center and ”Higher Ground-style” emergency shelter and housing building, we are partnering with the City of St. Paul to ask the state Legislature to allocate line-item funding in General Obligation bonds. This state investment is critical to help more people find stable housing, and to provide them with better access to the services that they need.

We are also raising private funds in order to make this ReVision possible. It is our firm belief that we need to move our clients from sleeping on mats on the floor in a crowded room to space that is more dignified, with separate bunks and apartments and services that will assist them in finding a pathway out of poverty.

In addition to the state’s return on investment, individuals will again be on solid footing by having a stable house that has become a home.

Take Julie, for example, who found success at the top of the career ladder as a mortgage banker for 20 years and as a bank vice president. This lifelong Minnesotan doesn’t have the expected background for a woman who experienced homelessness for a four-year period.

“I became homeless because of some bad things that happened. When you fall into a depression, your mind is not right,” she said. Julie lived on the streets. She stayed with family. She stayed at Salvation Army and Our Saviour’s shelters. But at Higher Ground, Julie said, she has found a home.

“I am very blessed that I’m here,” she said. She is finding hope and peace.

As we reflect on our homes and their foundational place in our lives, the clients, staff and volunteers at Catholic Charities hope you will continue to join us in our efforts to end poverty and homelessness by being a vocal supporter for affordable housing and the Dorothy Day Center ReVision.

Tomlin is vice president for social justice advocacy for Catholic Charities of St. Paul and ­Minneapolis.


Category: Social Concerns