About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

Governor Walz joins mandated survey of unsheltered people – see through his eyes and theirs

Below is Monica Nilsson’s four-part narrative of the 2019 annual mandated (but unfunded) count of unsheltered people in Minnesota. Governor Walz joined the volunteers at the Mall of America Transit center for the count. Here are Monica’s reflections…

The Mouse at the Mall of America

I once visited with a homeless woman who said she is called Mouse. I asked why. She said it was short for anonymous, because that’s what she is. She is surrounded by people all day long but alone all day long.

As Governor Tim Walz, Minnesota Housing Commissioner Jennifer Ho and Met Council Chair Charlie Zelle joined volunteers around Minnesota for the federally mandated count of unsheltered people last night, they contributed to the collective goal to make sure that people are counted-and know that they do. Folks shared their challenges accessing shelter and their fear of living in public. What if the mouse at the Mall of America went to high school in Dakota County and wants to return to work if she can sleep first?

Trading Darkness

While many people focus on not wanting people who are homeless to freeze to death, the reality is that the need for safety, sleep and a toilet is a need we have everyday of the year. For those without shelter or housing, trading the luxury of sleeping in darkness is necessary for the more primal sense of feeling safe first.

As Governor Tim Walz, Commissioner of Minnesota Housing Jennifer Ho and Met Council Chair Charlie Zelle joined the count of unsheltered Minnesotans, they were in the midst of those who most urgently need our help. Sleeping in darkness shouldn’t be aspirational.

There are a lot of people who care

He said it was hard not to get emotional. He was born and raised a Minnesotan. He dabbed a tissue on his eyes and said it’s hard to function without sleep. Then, the man who introduced himself as Tim said, “there are a lot of people who care” proving that it could even include the Governor.

As volunteers gathered and people without shelter or housing and nearby law enforcement shared, Governor Tim Walz, Commissioner Jennifer Ho of Minnesota Housing and Chair Charlie Zelle of the Metropolitan Council were witness to the every night that Minnesotans aren’t seeing. As I like to say, we need a feeling of urgency and hope.

I’ll Keep You Safe

It’s closing time at the Mall of America-the other kind of closing time. The transit center closes at 2am and those without shelter or housing board a bus or train to live in public at a different location. While we find peace in the comfort of our pillow and the heat of loved ones, some will lie down on the concrete of nearby parking garages, others will retreat behind the trees. The bathroom will be available in 2 hours when the center reopens. People with crutches and wheelchairs and their closets on their backs board the last bus and train, everyone homeless at this hour.

Governor Tim Walz joined volunteers conducting the count of unsheltered homeless Minnesotans last night. One person said, “He looks like one of us.” As he, Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan and our state legislators enter discussion of what’s important, what if action started with everyone thinking, “the first thing I’ll do is I’ll keep you safe”?

11 Snapshots of a cold night on the streets in MN

Thank you to Monica Nilsson for continuing to shine a light on people experiencing homelessness. Last night Monica spent the night documenting life without a home in the Twin Cities. It was 30 degrees below zero last night. While most of us screeched at the thought of running to the car – Monica met people sleeping in train stations, trains and transit stops.

What can you do to help?

  • Please ask your legislator to support the Homes for All Coalition ask of $15 million for the Emergency Services Program this legislative session. The current budget for the entire state is $844,000 for shelter and crisis services. (Find your reps.)
  • Call your elected officials at each level of government, asking how they are a part of making sure that people have access to shelter you around?
  • Donate time or money – find a cause that touches your heart at Volunteer Match or Hands On Twin Cities
  • Contact Monica with any questions or ideas monicamnilsson@gmail.com

Here are the stories:

  1. 4:12am Union Depot, St. Paul: overflow shelter at Union Depot in closes
  2. 2:27am Mall of America: The safest place for a lady
  3. 2:30am Mall of America: The apple of your eye
  4. 3:02am Mall of America: Warm thoughts
  5. 4:07am Union Depot, St. Paul: Social worker with a badge and gun
  6. 4:18am Union Depot, St. Paul: The Gray Hairs
  7. 4:19am Union Depot, St. Paul: Minnesota’s workforce
  8. 3:30am Hilton Hotel, Minneapolis: Young, pregnant and schizophrenic
  9. 5:02am Twin Cities Metro Transit light rail: The Winter Carnival Prince
  10. 1:50pm Sunray Shopping Center, St. Paul: The cost of suffering
  11. 5am the floor: No More Heroes

4:07am Union Depot, St. Paul Social worker with a badge and gun: 5 of 11 snapshots of a cold night on the streets in MN

Despite people equating homeless with criminal, many homeless people seek areas in which law enforcement are present. Homeless people are far more often prey than predator. I am grateful for the kindness I witnessed by law enforcement. However, do you believe the best use of skilled protectors is to pass out mittens and granola bars, sometimes en masse, because we don’t plan to shelter people rather create a pop-up when someone deems need? How much did the contents of these photos cost for one night?

Will you hear me? A Night on the Trains with Monica Nilsson, Mitra Jalali Nelson and Angela Conley

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 monicanilsson2016@gmail.com 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.

Healthcare is the bootstrap that helps people who are homeless

The following video contains photos from the Mall of America and the light rail overnight, along with my (Monica Nilsson’s) testimony at a late night Capitol hearing.

The Minnesota Legislature is considering refusing Medical Assistance to low income Minnesotans based on their employment status. Enrollees, most of whom are already working and make less than $16,642​ a ​year, would be required to work or volunteer 20 hours a week and report their activity. If this activity does not occur each month, or the new administrative system does not properly report it, the state would cut them from healthcare, causing a cascade of painful unintended consequences. Here is why I join hospitals and 100 other entities in opposing HF3722 and SF3611. It advanced in committee last week despite hours of testimony in opposition and will be heard again Wednesday, March 28th at 7pm in the House Health and Human Services Finance committee.

Homelessness in Minneapolis: A Mayoral Candidate Forum Sep 26

When: Tuesday, Sept. 26
7–8:30 p.m. (doors at 6:30 p.m.)

Where: First Universalist Church of Mpls
3400 Dupont Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55408

First Universalist Church, with assistance from the League of Women Voters, will host a forum for Minneapolis mayoral candidates focusing on issues of homelessness on Tuesday, Sept. 26 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Moderated by Monica Nilsson, a local advocate for the homeless, the forum will address the presence of homeless individuals in the community, sleeping in public, community livability, access to shelter, and interaction with resources.

Candidates will be encouraged to demonstrate a depth of knowledge that shows their ability to be a leader in multi-agency efforts to address homelessness.

The Star Tribune has reported that the 3,125 homeless people identified in Minneapolis this year represent an overall increase in homelessness by 231 people over the last 10 years. How did this happen, despite significantly  intensified efforts to combat homelessness?

The Office to End Homelessness reports that the number of persons identified as chronically homeless in Minneapolis dropped from 919 in 2009 to 360 in 2016. What issues are at the base of chronicity and how should they be addressed?

What considerations are most important to the mayor’s leadership role in addressing homelessness?

Co-Sponsors: First Universalist Church, Street Voices of Change in collaboration with the Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness, BEACON Interfaith Housing Collaborative, Simpson Housing Services, The SAFE Group, Peace House Community, Our Saviour’s Housing, St. Stephen’s Human Services, St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church, and Hats for the Homeless.

Night on the train – a glimpse of homelessness in Minneapolis

Homeless in Minnesota is a collection of stories, images and thoughts on what life is like on the street in and around Minneapolis and St Paul as documented by homeless advocate Monica Nilsson.

On Tuesday May 1, 2017, Monica rode the train in Minneapolis from 10:00pm to 7:30am to see what few of us see. She ventured out again on Tuesday May 30. Check out posts from her latest travels:

To learn more about life without shelter – please join us for a listening session on the lack of safe shelter on Wed, June 7, 4-5:30pm at St. Olaf Catholic Church in Minneapolis.

7:30am Seeing what’s pretty: A night on a train

We met in the Mall of America bathroom this morning, the only one I found unlocked in the past 10 hours of traveling from Minneapolis to St. Paul to Bloomington over and over on the Metro Transit light rail with people who sought shelter and were turned away after 120 shelter beds closed in Hennepin County because the colder months have passed. They also traveled from Dakota, Anoka and other counties who lack adequate shelter.

You learn not to drink water when you are without shelter. She’s new to being homeless. She asked if the Mall of America is open now. She’d like to see the pretty things. Have you seen Nickelodeon Universe when only maintenance and homeless people access it? It’s still pretty.

Can you see from my light rail photo who the homeless people are?

And so it begins, another day where those without shelter and those who just came from it start a new day, hoping to be surrounded by the pretty things: no panhandlers, no rough sleepers, no poverty. What would I like to see? What’s honorable not what’s pretty. Let’s stop reaching around the hard stuff and acting on the easy charity. We need to identify new shelter sites throughout the metro area and fund them, sheltering people until our infrastructure includes an adequate amount of housing for all.

6:30am To protect and serve and act as an alarm clock: A night on the train

Like their brothers protecting and serving at another end of light rail lines, Bloomington Police, Mall of America Police and Metro Transit Police wake the slumbering sheltered at the MOA to ensure they are medically stable. Rested? No. Medically stable? At the moment. Good use of law enforcement funding? They don’t kick homeless folks out so the snoring returns as some of the 8000 Mall of America employees begin their work day.

6:00am Super Bowl sightseeing: A night on the train

It’s coming, it’s coming! New Super Bowl stadium? $1 billion. New Nicollet Mall? $50 million. New Mall of America Transit Center? $2 million. Sheltering those unsightly homeless people from the sightseers? Priceless.