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.

5:00am Do the shuffle: A night on the train

Morning business people heading downtown? No. All of them, yes all, just got off one train and are getting on the other for shelter. I watched them process in an orderly fashion and can’t believe my eyes. You know how you drive by a homeless shelter and see a bunch of people waiting to get into their place to sleep for the night?

4:45am They’re not commuters; they’re home: A night on the train

With 120 shelter beds closing in Minneapolis Monday, light rail is home. Each car has 66 seats. 3 cars on this line. Here, 6 of 12 seats are filled.
If there can be humor in such a moment, someone said, “What do you think Trump will do?” And someone else said (to those who were awake), “Let us bow our heads in prayer.”

4:00am Keeping the Peace with the Peaceful: A night on the train

At the end of the line, Metro Transit drivers or police wake the slumbering sheltered and shuffle them along. A good use of law enforcement? The shufflers cross the tracks, settle in, and fall back asleep for 40 minutes in the direction from which they just came. In 7 hours of riding the train tonight, I haven’t seen anyone be checked for fare. Thank you, Metro Transit, for creating the shelter our community so desperately needs.

3:34am The safety of stinking: A night on the train

As we pass the State Capitol, sheltering on the Green Line, my plans of independence are thwarted when a beautiful young woman attaches to me like glue. She’s quite pretty…and quite smelly. Some think homeless folks are lazy and don’t shower. Some think they don’t shower because of depression-and that could be true. But stinking is also a defense mechanism. How close will you get to a man or woman who reeks? Some women will wear a Depends, urinate in it and keep it on, hoping no man will come near.

This young woman, I’ll call Roberta, (as we glide past Robert St.) doesn’t want to be alone…and she doesn’t have a coat and it’s 38 degrees out. So we’ll stand together at the Union Depot as everybody departs at the end of the line and wait to ride 40 minutes back to Target Field.

2:40am 40 winks in 40 minutes: A night on the train

The Blue line from the Mall of America has shut down for a couple of hours-their answer to addressing the homeless problem in their transit center. So, this roving group of homeless folks plans it right, 40 minutes of sleep from Target Field in Minneapolis to the Mall of America in Bloomington or Union Depot in St. Paul. One has to let go of darkness but the trade off is a presumed sense of safety in the light.

Twin cities shelters are full, as they are in Anoka and Dakota counties. No shelter exists for men, women or youth in Washington, Scott or Carver counties.

Everyone is vulnerable, the 18 year old and the 78 year old. We need to prioritize siting and funding more shelter in the 7 county metro area immediately. The Mall of America and light rail are mighty expensive homeless shelters.

1:30am When the Mall of America is home: A night on the train

After 20+ years working with homeless adults and youth, people often ask me where the biggest homeless camps in the Twin Cities are. My response? The Mall of America and Metro Transit stations and lines. There are far more people sheltering in these 2 locations than under any bridge or in any boarded building.

Monday morning, 120 shelter beds closed in Minneapolis because they were only funded to be open in the colder months. By Monday afternoon, 93 women and men had been turned away-asking for shelter at the intake site.

Let’s take a trip overnight and learn where our fellow Twin Cities residents are seeking safety, warmth and rest while most are in the comfort of a bed.

Riding the late night train May 1

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.

Recently she rode the train in Minneapolis from 10:00pm to 7:30am to see what few of us see. Check out her travels:

Standing room only at Dakota County Homeless Forum

Monday night (January 30) Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Apple Valley hosted a conversation about homelessness in Dakota County with members of a variety of faith communities, homeless advocates, County staff, elected officials and people experiencing homelessness.  It was heartwarming and overwhelming to see 220 people show up. They were there to learn how to be part of the solution. (Get handout from the event.)

With hundreds in the room, it was a 12 year old girl who livestreamed the event via Facebook. It was a first-time experiment so the quality varies – but you can view it below. (You can also track Tweets from the event.)

The night started with Monica Nilsson, a homeless advocate and consultant, giving a brief history of recent crisis shelter operations and homelessness in Dakota County. The shelter opened during a cold snap in mid-December. It closed the day after Christmas when no temporary site was identified and reopened for another three weeks in January at Easter Lutheran Church in Eagan. In six weeks it housed 78 people. It opened because Dakota County saw the need, especially in the bitter cold weather, and offered funds for the first 4 nights. It opened because local churches were ready, willing and able to donate space, funding and resources (clothing, food, toiletries) and many volunteers. It opened because there were professional staff that were able to support the needs of the guests. And it remained open because of generous donations made by individuals through a GoFundMe campaign.

Then there was a panel of community educators, each had firsthand experience with homelessness. Sasha, Alex, Nick, Elena, Matt, Josh, James and Rick bravely told their stories. Each was well spoken, some had jobs, even while homeless; each had a unique story but there were themes. The first theme – each had just one or two incidents that put them in a vulnerable position. For one it was illness, another was injury, one was separated from her spouse, another suffered from poor and uninformed choices made by her parents. So many people just one step away from homelessness.

Another recurring theme was the difficulty in escaping homelessness. Being without shelter means carrying everything you own – always. Being without shelter means no ready access to a shower or laundry facilities. Being without shelter means you’re always thinking about a roof, warmth, food and how to get clean-even if you have a job. And people treat you differently when you appear homeless. It becomes more difficult to spend hours at the coffee shop or fast food restaurant –  managers will ask you to leave after 30 minutes of sitting.

There was an open discussion about how it felt to be homeless and what attendees could do to help keep people from being homeless and/or help them find homes. What did guests and former guests want? Human interaction and communication. Opportunity! One panelist said she had the money for an apartment but her applications were continually turned down. She just wanted an opportunity. And then there were more basic needs too – clean clothes, a gas card, Cub card…

The meeting lasted 90 minutes and the time flew. There were several policymakers in the room including, Representative Erin Maye Quade, Senator Jim Carlson, Representative Laurie Halverson, Angie Craig, County Commissioner Liz Workman and other elected officials. People left energized, asking what could they do next. The long term plan for Dakota County is a permanent shelter for men and women age 18+.

Pioneer Press spreads good news about crisis shelter extension and reports state of suburban homelessness

pioneer-pressThanks to the Pioneer Press for covering the good news at the shelter…

Monica Nilsson was in good spirits Thursday night while her guests were unwinding before bed.

Nilsson, who has been running a traveling cold-weather crisis shelter at four Dakota County churches for more than a month, had just gotten the good news that she and others were hoping for: Money was donated that will keep the operation running another week.

The shelter opened Dec. 15 at Grace Lutheran Church in Apple Valley and was set to close Friday at Easter Lutheran Church in Eagan. On Thursday, several Dakota County churches donated about $9,000 to keep it open until Jan. 27, Nilsson said.

Their story helps shine a light on suburban homeless and public awareness if half the battle; the other half is making shelter a priority in the county…

In Dakota County, the long-term goal is to have a permanent shelter for single men and women up and running by 2018 or sooner, Nilsson said.

Kastler said the county will be at the table with the faith community “to think through financing options both for the actual purchase of a building, for any renovation that is needed and for ongoing services.”

“It’s not something we have in the budget, but it’s something we as county staff feel is important,” she said. “We want to see this service extended in Dakota County.”

Nilsson said she has been encouraged by recent visits to the shelter by elected officials, including county commissioners Tom Egan and Mike Slavik; State Sen. Jim Carlson; State Rep. Erin Maye Quade; and Eagan City Council members Meg Tilley and Gary Hansen.

“When I talk with interested people I want them to have both a sense of urgency that people need help now, but also a sense of hope that people’s conditions change with connections to other people, to health care, to housing,” Nilsson said. “So the question will be: Are we going to leave things like this, or help people?”


Minneapolis Star Tribune shares story of Dakota County Crisis Shelter

Thanks to the Minneapolis Star Tribune for their story on the Crisis Shelter, recognizing the work of the participating churches, Dakota County, staff and countless volunteers…

A coalition of Dakota County churches had been meeting for over a year to discuss solutions to local homelessness. When the frigid weather prompted county officials to ask the community for immediate help, Roske-Metcalfe said, several churches stepped up.

Church staff members had never run a temporary shelter, but they got to work, calling restaurants for food donations and volunteers to provide supplies. The county donated $3,000 and covered overnight staffing. Beds came from a Minneapolis nonprofit.

And recognizing the need for awareness of the homelessness in Dakota County…

Many people still doubt homelessness exists in suburbs because they don’t see panhandlers on street corners like in the central cities. Suburban homeless often stay out of sight. The county estimated its homeless population at 63 people in January 2016, based on the number of people county workers found living outside, Nilsson said.

While building and staffing another Dakota County shelter is a far-off goal, the temporary shelter’s success was motivating, Roske-Metcalfe said: “It may turn out to be the kick in the ass that we needed.”