Ending homelessness is a priority, not a side issue

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January 31, 2013
By: Meg Gaertner
Meg Gaertner

At this point in the legislative session, our legislators are determining what the government’s priorities are as they develop their budget proposals. At risk of being overlooked in this process is the population most in need of extra support: those experiencing homelessness.

The shame is that we know how to end homelessness. There are proven programs—both short-term assistance and long-term support—that address the needs of those experiencing homeless with great success. Importantly, these programs are cost-effective, and actually lower the cost to taxpayers. 

On the one hand, those who are housed are more productive at work and lead healthier lives.  On the other hand, housing them reduces the enormous cost generated by emergency room visits, stays at detox centers, and dependency on homeless shelters. Yet homelessness in Hennepin County is the highest it has been in a decade, primarily through lack of funding and community support.

Isn’t it time we prioritized the most vulnerable among us? Isn’t it time that we as a nation fulfilled our promises of opportunity and prosperity? At the very least, isn’t it time that we, in the wealthiest nation in the world, met the basic needs of our people? Isn’t it time we had homes for all?

We must ask our legislators to keep housing and homelessness a priority, especially as they develop their proposals for the state budget. With the right funding and the strategic distribution of resources, we can end homelessness in Minnesota and prevent it from occurring in the future.

Meg Gaertner
Whittier 
Emergency shelter case manager, 
Our Saviour's Housing