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Statewide homeless coalition makes stop in Bemidji

BEMIDJI—In addition to looking at the issue in their own backyards, some advocates in Bemidji are taking part in a much larger effort to address the issue of homelessness throughout Minnesota.

Homes for All, a statewide coalition of more than 200 organizations, will hold a forum in Bemidji from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, at Calvary Lutheran Church, 2508 Washington Ave. SE.

While part of the event will highlight the personal stories of those who have experienced homelessness of some sort at some time, it also will highlight the agenda Homes For All hopes to push at the state Legislature.

"What we try to do is make sure the community is aware of our agenda and that they also know about the local efforts that Village of Hope and other partners are doing in Bemidji," said Matt Traynor of the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, one of the many organizations that constitute Homes for All. "We want to make sure people know that what's on our Homes For All agenda is going to have a direct impact on the local work as well."

The coalition's agenda includes $300 million in bonding for affordable homes and economic development, $55 million for the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, $25 million for the Department of Human Services, and $50 million in tax credits for affordable housing projects. While the organization has been advocating for the homeless for the past six years, it is now reaching farther than it has in years past to accomplish its goals.

"It is our biggest and most bold legislative agenda ever," Traynor said.

Joy Goode is one of the speakers planning to present at the meeting. Now an advocate for Village of Hope, she has previously experienced homelessness herself.

"It's hard because I was in that situation; I don't know how to tell people it's going to be OK," Goode said.

Aside from the upcoming meeting about housing as a statewide issue, multiple local organizations have been working to ease the homelessness issue in the Bemidji area. Whether it means working with Homes for All at the statewide level or with other organizations locally, Village of Hope Executive Director Sandy Hennum said the collaboration is needed to tackle a problem of such scope and size.

"We've really started to come together and tackle this," Hennum said. "Homelessness is so complex, and the issues are so complex, that one organization can't do it alone." 

If you go

What: Home For All homelessness town hall

When: 10 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 12

Where: Calvary Lutheran Church, 2508 Washington Ave. SE.

Jordan Shearer

Jordan Shearer covers crime and social issues for the Bemidji Pioneer. A Rochester native and Bemidji State grad, he previously spent several years in western Nebraska writing for the Keith County News. Follow him on Twitter @Jmanassa

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