Challenging the community to help people find pathways out of poverty

| Kathy Tomlin | September 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

Living in poverty can be a source of isolation and “over-neighborliness” — all at the same time.

Taking one day at a time, many of the clients at Catholic Charities share a shelter with people they have never met before. While often they are isolated and alone in terms of their families of origin, sharing a shelter puts many in a position of sharing too little space for too long.

When I think of the togetherness (not like the togetherness chosen at the State Fair) and the luck of the draw that is theirs, I am struck with how gracious and hospitable many of our guests are with each other.

It must take real patience when you don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel — with no job in sight and no place to call your own.

It could be so much better, both for our customers and for the community at large.

Making things better

There are several initiatives in the works to attempt to reverse the affordable housing shortage and the growing shelter demand. Taking the long view, the Metropolitan Council is holding listening sessions throughout the metro area, “Thrive MSP 2040.”

These listening sessions are open to everyone in the Twin Cities who wants to contribute to the conversations about the quality of life of the region and the investments that need to be made now, in order to ensure a thriving metropolitan area for everyone.

The Metropolitan Council will respond by creating a 10-year regional plan for the metro area.

In addition, the Homes for All campaign is a legislative initiative developed by shelter providers, housing developers and advocates for supportive housing who have come together in an effort to end home­lessness in Minnesota.

Remembering the early progress made under Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s 2004 business plan to end homelessness by 2010, this coalition is focused on the huge need that continues particularly in light of the Great Recession and the mortgage foreclosure crisis that has only just begun for some.

In 2011 Catholic Charities assisted 410 households to maintain their housing with homelessness prevention assistance, provided 415,191 nights of housing and shelter, and filled the Hope Street shelter for youth to capacity every night.

While this work is very important as people face crisis, in the end, this is not the solution we should be seeking.

We at Catholic Charities would like to be focusing our work, instead, on creating opportunities that make it possible for a job to pay for housing and all of the other necessities of life. While we strive to go down that road, the immediate need in front of us keeps us fairly grounded in meeting the immediate crisis.

However, we challenge the community to think about how we (all of us) can provide pathways out of poverty.

We believe two important keys to this path are workforce development strategies and the creation of affordable housing located throughout the metropolitan area.

It is our view that the quality of life improves for everyone when a trained workforce has access to affordable housing that is located on transportation corridors and connects directly to the business and retail hubs in the region.

It is our hope that these two strategies, among others, will make it possible for more of our clients to participate in the economic life of the region.

Kathy Tomlin is director of Catholic Charities’ Office for Social Justice.

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Category: Faith and Justice