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Guest Column: Prevention Will Help Us End Homelessness

District 51A Rep. Diane Anderson (R) reviews the government programs available to help the homeless.

Having a safe and affordable place to live is an essential component for people to be stable and greatly improves their ability to get a job. Since her election in 2010, Rep. Diane Anderson has been working on obtaining state funding for homelessness with an emphasis on prevention and helping people get back on their feet as soon as possible. There are many nonprofit organizations that do a great job helping people who are homeless. The state of Minnesota also has several programs to help people who are homeless.   

The Emergency Services Program provides short-term shelter and support services. The services include self-sufficiency case management, employment counseling, job placement, and help accessing permanent housing. Emergency shelters across Minnesota are designed to meet the urgent needs of families, youth or single adults who are homeless. These shelters provide people with a safe and temporary place to stay.

The Transitional Housing Program provides temporary, subsidized housing and supportive services for families and individuals, with the goal of helping each household gain self-sufficiency. Transitional Housing Program services include self-sufficiency case management, assistance to access permanent housing, child care, employment counseling, job placement, or other services needed to stabilize housing. The Transitional Housing Programs and emergency shelters are effective and efficient in rapidly connecting families, single youths, and adults to appropriate housing and mainstream services.

There is an ongoing need for transitional housing. People have episodes of homelessness that are at times related to an economic crisis and/or the inability of a family or individual to identify appropriate mainstream services. The success of transitional housing programs rests in the fact that participants are provided with affordable housing and support services. They are required to pay rent and be good tenants. They receive help to address issues that may be causing their instability.

Group Residential Housing provides safe, dignified, housing and food for seniors and low-income adults who cannot work due to a medical condition. A medical professional must verify that the person is unable to work due to suffering from: Serious physical or mental illness, injuries, developmental disabilities, traumatic brain injury, blindness, chemical dependency, and/or are elderly.  Group residential housing has helped move hundreds of people who experience long-term homelessness into housing.

Last session, Rep. Anderson chief authored a bill, HF 846, that appropriated money for emergency services grants and transitional housing. The state funding for fiscal year 2012-13 for Transitional Housing Grants is $5.868 million and for the Emergency Services Program is $688,000. The Transitional Housing Grants program serves 4,000 individuals annually and the Emergency Services program serves 3,000 individuals annually. 

Rep. Anderson also obtained TANF funds last year and this year—$700,000 in fiscal year 2012 and $200,000 in fiscal year 2013. This funding was included in the Health and Human Services Finance Omnibus bill. TANF stands for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. This TANF money will be used for long‐term homeless supportive services for low income families. TANF is a federally funded grant program that allows states to create and administer their own assistance programs.

Another provision in the Omnibus Health and Human Services Finance Bill this year relating to grants from TANF funding was $250,000 directed for grants for the Family Assets for Independence program. This one‐time appropriation is administered by the Community Action Agencies and serves families with income below 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines and minor children in the household. The Minnesota Community Action Partnership is made up of member organizations in communities across Minnesota. The members are community action agencies that offer the last local line of defense for families in need. 

The bonding bill that the state legislature passed this year included $30 million in housing infrastructure bonds and $5.5 million in General Obligation bonds for public housing rehabilitation. The housing infrastructure bonds will address affordable housing infrastructure needs. Funds will be used to preserve existing federally subsidized rental housing; stabilize communities impacted by the foreclosure crisis by creating new affordable housing opportunities through rental units and community land trusts; and construct or acquire and rehabilitate supportive housing, particularly for persons experiencing or at risk of experiencing long‐term homelessness. The Minnesota Housing Finance Agency will issue the bonds. A standing appropriation for 20 years was made to pay the debt service.

Rep. Anderson said, “Whenever possible we should prevent homelessness. Prevention is less disruptive to a family and community. When homelessness occurs we must ensure that it is brief and that people who experience it reintegrate quickly back into the community.  I plan to continue my work on helping people who are homeless.” 

If you would like to join with and support Rep. Diane Anderson’s work on homelessness you can contact her at 651-296-3533 or email her at: rep.diane.anderson@house.mn.

For your information:

The following people testified in favor of HF 846 at the hearing on March 15, 2011:

  • Beth Bromen, Executive Director, (an emergency shelter in Eagan)
  • Rick Podvin, Executive Director, Domus Transitional Housing (a transitional housing program serving the greater St. Cloud area)
  • Sue Watlov Phillips, Executive Director, Elim Transitional Housing (a transitional housing program serving the entire Twin Cities metro area)
  • Robert Allen, Deputy Police
  • Mike Wold, from Eagan

Editor's Note: Homelessness rates in Dakota County and other suburban communities in Minnesota have risen substantially in the last five years. This letter to the editor is part of a Patch series exploring that trend. Click on the links below to read other articles on the topic.

  • Aug. 13
  • Aug. 14
  • Aug. 15

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