Guest Post by Cassie Paulsen- Advocacy Associate
This year, Habitat Housing Heroes found a new way to advocate for safe, stable, and affordable housing: they gathered valuable data and listened to the stories of community members experiencing homelessness as part of the Wilder Foundation’s Homelessness Count, one of the most comprehensive studies concerning homelessness in the nation.
Our Housing Heroes use the data and stories collected from this survey every year to advocate for Homes for All in Minnesota!
Not only were volunteers collecting information to be used for housing advocacy, but many of them walked away with new reflections about the reality of homelessness in Minnesota.
For volunteer interviewer Emily Evans, the most meaningful take-away was realizing the variety of pathways to homelessness. “Recognizing my assumptions about homelessness helped me to see the real lives of each individual,” she explained.
Another Housing Hero volunteer, Tina Miranda, had a similar realization that people just like you and me are experiencing homelessness.
She explains, “What struck me was that the woman I interviewed was only a year older than I am. We both are single parents, we both work, and we both grew up in homes with two parents. The similarities were also a stark reality that homelessness looks like you and me. Being a single parent, who works two jobs to get by—so much of what she said to me I could understand, how if there were one small catastrophe, or illness, and you lose your job—that is it, you can never fully regain your footing after that.”
The 2012 Homelessness Count estimated that over 14,000 Minnesotans are experiencing homelessness, about half of which were children and youth under the age of 21.
Jesse Stephens, another volunteer interviewer, talked with an individual that has been experiencing homelessness since he was 15, "He grew up in incredibly difficult circumstances and he left home when the behavior of one of his relatives got so bad that he realized he could not stay in that house any longer."
As these Minnesotans face colder fall nights without stable and affordable housing, it becomes more important than ever to tell their stories to those who can make a difference.