We can do better for the homeless

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January 18, 2013
By: Colleen O’Connor Toberman
Colleen O’Connor Toberman

These cold winter days are hard on all of us, but especially on those without a home. Hennepin County has reached a ten-year high in homelessness. Despite some great progress (such as cutting veterans’ homelessness in half), the need has just gotten way too high for our community’s service providers to handle. They run programs with great proven results, but they’ve been tapped out for years and just don’t have the resources to help everyone coming to their doors.

We can do better to serve our neighbors in need. Providing housing is better than struggling with this rising tide of homelessness. Not only is stable housing more dignified for our neighbors, but it’s actually cheaper to all of us. Folks in crisis use expensive crisis-care services: shelter, emergency rooms, law enforcement, and mental-health interventions. Folks with housing are more productive workers, are healthier, and cost us less as taxpayers—even when this housing is publicly funded. A little upfront investment goes a long way.

We can all play a role in ending homelessness. We can advocate at the Capitol for better services for those in need. We can encourage our neighborhoods to welcome mixed-income housing developments. We can donate or volunteer for our community’s excellent nonprofits. And we can all look upon our homeless neighbors with a little kindness and compassion during these cold days.

Colleen O’Connor Toberman
Audubon Park