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Guest Column: Homelessness Deserves a Unified Response

The public doesn't always understand why and how someone becomes homeless, according to Dakota Woodlands Executive Director Beth Bromen.

Dakota Woodlands is a homeless shelter with supportive programming for single women and families located in Eagan, Minn. It is the only women’s homeless shelter in Dakota County and serves over 100 households each year.

It is a common reaction for Dakota County residents to be surprised that there is a homeless shelter in Eagan. Perhaps it's even more surprising to learn that Dakota Woodlands' residents are from Dakota County!

People have pre-disposed beliefs about who is homeless and don’t realize it may be their co-worker, neighbor or even relative. There is a general lack of understanding of why people become homeless and solving the problem relies too much on the certainty that it is all about economics and not the underlying issues that have traditionally been taboo to politely talk about, such as mental illness.

Organizations already involved or interested in homeless issues should join together to create a coordinated response so that resources can be maximized and gaps can be identified and addressed. People who want to help should make sure that what they do aligns with the needs of organizations serving the homeless so they don’t add unwanted item donations or tasks that create burdens instead of assistance. Most of all, society needs to accept that addressing homelessness means addressing the whole person and this may mean a lifetime commitment.

Dakota County can succeed in ending homelessness if it has the will to do so.

Beth Bromen
Executive Director, Dakota Woodlands

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.

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