A more reflective post may follow, but for today I wanted to archive Monica Nilsson’s trip with St. Paul City Council Member Mitra Jalali Nelson and Hennepin County Commissioner Angela Conley on an overnight train ride through the Twin Cities, where many, if not most of their fellow transit riders were spending a homeless night in place that is warm. It may not be safe, it may not be comfortable, it may not be restful but on January 5 in Minnesota, warm is something.
Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) wrote about the trip. Mitra and Angela both posted impassioned videos about her time on the train. People are starting to listen.
Will you hear me? Originally posted by Monica Nilsson on Facebook
Some people say nighttime prayers before they go to bed. Some people pray before they go to sleep, bed if you’re lucky. Some wonder if anyone is listening. I’m grateful that St. Paul City Council Member Mitra Jalali Nelson, Hennepin County Commissioner-Elect Angela Conley and the Star Tribune’s Chris Serres were willing to spend time overnight on the trains to listen. Metro Transit Police estimate 300 people seek shelter each night as shelters in the region are full-with Metro Transit’s Homeless Assistance Team Sgt. Brooke Blakey.
Following so much attention after homeless encampments formed in St. Paul and Minneapolis last fall, people without shelter wonder if new encampments must form this spring in order to be seen and get help. An equal number of people were riding the trains as created an encampment along Hiawatha Avenue. They’re still seeking safety as they close their eyes on the trains. Hiawatha is sheltered. A regional response is necessary and I am grateful that Hennepin County Commissioner-Elect Angela Conley and St. Paul City Council Member Mitra Jalali Nelson, along with the Star Tribune’s Chris Serres, were willing to cross borders overnight, as people in need do, to see what most don’t.
Hennepin County’s most recent one night count of unsheltered people found 523 adults. Heading Home Minnesota’s 2018 one night count found 1066, a 40% increase from 2014. I hope other people with different kinds of power will follow Hennepin County Commissioner-Elect Angela Conley and St. Paul City Council Member Mitra Jalali Nelson along with the Star Tribune’s Chris Serres in standing in the midst of suffering as they did overnight. A sober invitation but I’m quite sure a transformative one. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll walk with you.
Please see those who are without shelter, hear them or their advocates when you can’t see them and believe that they are out there, walk your feet to the center of the issue and help. We need you. This fall, the SAFE Group: Sheltering All Facing Endangerment and the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, proposed a $15 million dollar ask to our state legislature this year for Emergency Services Grant program funding. The budget has been $844,000 for the entire state for years. The good news is the Homes for All Coalition has adopted this proposal. Join us in the coming months as we advocate at not only the state level but the county and city levels to see that people have a safe place to close their eyes. Thank you to Hennepin County Commissioner-Elect Angela Conley, St. Paul City Council Member Mitra Jalali Nelson along with the Star Tribune’s Chris Serres for helping build public awareness one step at a time.
Thank you to St. Paul City Council Member Mitra Jalali Nelson and Hennepin County Commissioner Angela Conley for joining unsheltered Twin Cities residents in losing sleep overnight. I’m also grateful that Ramsey County Commissioner Trista Matascastillo, State Representative Aisha Gomez and former State Rep. Erin Murphy reached out to see more with your own eyes. A regional response is needed to addressing people without shelter and you are beginning that effort with action.