Homes for All recently hosted two legislative kickoff events in Bemidji and the Metro to celebrate the beginning of session and join together as advocates for Homes for All's 2019-2020 legislative agenda. Here Sandy Hennum, Executive Director of Village of Hope in Bemidji, and Carmel San Juan, intern at Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, offer their thoughts on the respective events. Thanks, Sandy and Carmel, for sharing!
The importance of home became very evident during the recent Homes for All Legislative Kickoff event in Bemidji on January 12, 2019. Community members, including people with lived experience of housing insecurity, gathered together to talk about the impact that home has on us all.
The most powerful part of the day was created by people sharing their stories of love, frustration, loss, and resiliency. The stories we heard connect the past and present to their future. Through the tears we learned that telling stories about very personal life situations is not easy, but that it gets to the heart of what’s important to us: our family and their safety and future.
It also became very clear that we all need to tell our story and that we all need someone to listen to us tell our story. We heard stories of people who continually got knocked down—either by loss of job, addiction, childhood poverty, mental illness or things that were out of their control—but got back up. Stories like the mother who lost her six children and her home: “I have to live with the fact that I will never see those kids again, but this is my year and I’m determined to make a better way for the two kids I have now.” Stories of people who lost their home and job but now are using their experience, by working in nonprofits, in the very place that helped them, to help others find and sustain housing. Stories of passionate people who go to work every day to make a difference but the needs in our community often outpace available resources and it is overwhelming. One thing that these stories taught us all is that where we live impacts everything and that the community of Bemidji knows that by working together we can start to find homes for all.
Carmel San Juan:
Through the many touching stories we heard at the recent Homes for All Metro Legislative Kickoff in St. Paul, “home” means a lot of different things to people. It’s a place of refuge, stability, love, and promise that offers a sense of hope to a person. Stories about the positive change that can happen in people’s lives were shared, and it was a hopeful signal to all about the value and worth of the work being done to eliminate homelessness.
To hear about the great policy work that has been accomplished thus far, it brought a renewed sense of vitality into the room and showed that any progress is an accomplishment to be valued. Just as Rep. Alice Hausman stated in her speech that night: “It is acceptable to take a rest, but it is not acceptable to give up.” She is one of the Homes for All Housing Champions awarded this year, along with Sen. David Senjem, Sen. Nick Frentz, Sen. Rich Draheim, and Committee Administrator Kyle Berndt. Through all the recognition of the integral work that has been done, we are hopeful that this year’s legislative session will be another fruitful one as we advocate for the need for homes for all.