More than a thousand Minnesotans from all corners of the state are expected to gather at the Minnesota State Capitol on Thursday for "Homeless Day on the Hill" and "Mental Health Day on the Hill."
Advocates with the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless and National Alliance on Mental Illness of Minnesota (NAMI MN) will be joined by other non-profit organizations to push legislation that will expand resources for Minnesotans struggling with homelessness and mental illness.
"We're urging lawmakers to focus on affordable housing. That's really the priority today," said Kenza Hadj-Moussa, Communications Director of the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless.
"Homeless Day on the Hill" advocates support an investment of $100 million in bonds for affordable housing. Advocates are pushing for the removal of barriers to education and training in Minnesota's welfare-to-work program.
According to 2012 statistics released by the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, 10,214 people in Minnesota are homeless. Roughly 3,500 are children.
Mental health advocates will hold their annual Mental Health Rally & Day on Thursday as well.
Their rally will be held at 1:30pm in the State Capitol Rotunda.
"54% of people that are homeless actually live with a mental health illness," said Sue Abderholden, Executive Director of NAMI MN. "I think that's awful. So if we can find housing and supportive housing arrangements, we can get them off the streets and on the road to recovery."
"We want to make sure that we have the service system in place so people can access treatment when and where they need it. We also want to make sure that we have affordable housing for people with mental health illness so that they're living on their own, but with some assistance, instead of being confined to a hospital bed," said Abderholden.
Mental health advocates are also pushing for changes in education when it comes to dealing with children with mental illness.
The Mental Health Legislative Network supports the clarification of laws that restrict the use of seclusion and restraints in schools. Advocates will also be pushing for strengthened anti-bullying policies.
Mental health advocates are also pushing for the renovation of the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter.