ST PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Transportation cleared a homeless encampment at the intersection of East Lake Street and Hiawatha Tuesday morning, citing safety concerns along a highway right-of-way.
At the same time, several state lawmakers and shelter providers stood at the State Capitol, urging lawmakers to pass the Pathway Home Act.
"It is an investment in our future generations," said Rep. Heather Keeler (DFL-04A), who authored the bill.
Homelessness across Minnesota has been declared a public health crisis as the number of unsheltered Minnesotans continues to rise.
"On any given night there are about 20,000 people here in Minnesota who are experiencing homelessness, and 50,000 people will experience homelessness over the course of this year," explained Rhonda Otteson, with the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless.
Numbers representing the lives of many in marginalized communities.
"Indigenous people are 30 times as likely, and Black people 12 times as likely than white people to be homeless. Hundreds of young people, particularly LGBTQIA youth do not have a permanent home," said Re. Liz Reyer, (DFL-52A)
Startling statistics for lawmakers and shelter providers, underlining the need to pass the Pathway Home Act.
The act would provide new shelters and transitional housing, as well as the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) — a database used to collect data on households experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
"It's a cost-effective step that reduces the need for more expensive and ongoing programming, but more importantly than that, it's our way to address the ongoing trauma that far too many people are experiencing," said Rep. Reyer.
Trauma which Claudette McDowell is all too familiar with after losing her job and apartment in 2014.
"I never want to be homeless again, but I want to use my experience to change the system and make things better for all the people," said McDowell.
"I urge our elected officials, please, please, please make sure this bill passes at the degree of urgency that we all are expecting and rightfully deserve," said Michael Goar, CEO of Catholic Charities.
Providers say there are 86 projects across Minnesota that would create 3,500 shelter spaces that are ready to be funded, they're just facing a funding gap of roughly $200 million.
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