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Flutag 2019 by Ann Treacy
September 8, 2019, 12:37 am
Filed under: St Paul

We went to the Flutag in 2010, the last time it was in St Paul. It felt like there were a million people. This year it was colder and less sunny and less crowded. But still so much fun to watch the competitors “fly” off the 30 foot jump in their man-made flying machines!



Last day in MN and Day One in Dublin: Talk about an amazing race! by Ann Treacy
August 13, 2019, 7:31 am
Filed under: Dublin, St Paul

It seems like maybe I can’t start talking about the family trip to Dublin before I mention my last day in Minnesota. I woke up early (pre 6 am) to trek to a triathlon. It was my second – it includes 500 yards swimming, 16 miles bike and a 3 mile run. I actually liked the swim and the run. I hate the biking. Since math has never been my strong point, each year I forget that biking is the largest portion of the race.

But I did the race with friends. I met friends along the way. I got to know a few people better. And now I’m done.

After that, Heather and I hosted Erik Koskinen and Al Church on our radio show. I’m big fans of each and I am so thankful that they are both easy going, super talented and were OK with the fact that I have been sharper on better days. It was a perfect distraction and a great show!

Then we left for Dublin. Honestly I’m not sure that I had an hour of (to use the term hammered into us in my open plan high school) unscheduled time before we got to the airport.

Aine, Kate and I are in Dublin for a few days. We’ll meet Lily (and her boyfriend Sean) in Belfast where we’re staying with one of my kindest friends in the world, who someone got Aine a Dr Seuss makeover last time we went to Belfast.

We are staying right on top of the Ha’Penny Bridge in the city center. Smack dab in the city center. The view is awesome. Aine has remarked at how she forgot about how the doors and everything here is just a little different. We were tired on the first day. So tired. But we got in a few walks, an Indian meal and Kate and I went for a drink. I did get to visit Mother Redcaps – a pub and market where I worked years ago. It hasn’t been open in a long time but I still love visiting.



When you’re homeless, people don’t want to see you – MN Gov & Lt Gov visit homeless sites by Ann Treacy
July 1, 2019, 4:19 pm
Filed under: Minneapolis, St Paul

Saturday night I toured with Governor Tim Walz, Lt Governor Peggy Flanagan, Monica Nilsson and a small entourage to two small homeless shelters and an encampment site to talk to people experiencing homelessness. It was a listening session, a show and tell, a you-can’t-believe-until-you-see tour.

We are more than our worst moment

We toured Simpson Shelter, a small full-service shelter. Guests gushed about the people who work there. One noted that shelter workers came to visit him in jail. I could see plates made up and left out for specific guests who were coming in late. People sleep in bunks. There are 50 men in one room and 25 women in the other, but there was some air-conditioning. It’s close quarters but a few TVs and lots of couches, which I was told are very comfy. Guests had lots of questions and suggestions.

First question – why do they keep building expensive apartments when we need affordable housing? The quick answer, because developers want to make money. Next, people want to know what is being done to improve affordability of life. Someone suggested better training programs. Another pointed out  the circular nature of subsidized affordable living. Housing is cheaper outside of Minneapolis but Section 8 Housing (rental subsidies), requires tenants to stay in Minneapolis. The other problem is if you live too far, you’ll need time and money for public transportation. Then if you’re on any kind of disability, there’s a balance of how much you can work/earn before you lose access to healthcare. There’s an ecosystem to life and if you get sick, lose a job or a car, change your living arrangement, at this level of living you jeopardize everything.

Many of the people at Simpson work. Some have chemical or mental health issues. But based on the questions, many are suffering from repercussions of decisions made decades ago. They can’t get housing, work or other support because they (or a partner) has a criminal record. One man had been in the armed forces, worked many jobs but also had several felonies. Nearly 60 years of living and his felonies defined him. Guests at Simpson want to know about how to expunge old records, restorative justice that lets everyone heal and redemption.

I just want a shower or to make a cup of coffee on my own before work

Next we went to First Covenant, under the shadow of the US Bank Stadium. People sleep on mattresses. There are services but it doesn’t seem as full service at Simpson. But people prefer First Covenant to the bigger shelters that feel like dorms or prisons or army barracks. They are not as secure or personal as the smaller shelter. (Especially unsafe for women, transgender people and anyone with gender fluidity – but that’s a different post!)

People here have many of the same questions. One woman works at the Mall of America. She’s well dressed but unable to find housing she can afford. She talks about how exhausting it is to worry about a bed. And sharing three bathrooms with so many people is a challenge. She just wants to get up in the morning and have a cup of coffee in her own place before going to work. Another gentleman just wants a place where he can get a shower. He can find food and a place to sleep but he works and would love to have a shower. He suggests a 24-hour shower facility. I can see this has (retired National Guard) Tim Walz thinking.

People have ideas and theories here. They think about their needs and the needs of their community. Some people know their stuff (regulations and red tape); some may be confused or ill-informed but they know the lives they lead are tiring and hard. It was here that someone observed – when you’re homeless people don’t want to see you.

There’s a predatory nature to being on the street

Our final stop was under a bridge. A small quiet place with a dozen or so tents. Monica and I have been here before. The residents keep the place clean so they are quietly allowed to stay for now but they are in the shadow of a few larges businesses so who knows what will happen in the future. It is heartbreaking to see how quickly homelessness turns into a normal way of life. Women especially talked about having to learn how to be homeless, learn where sleep, how to start a fire, where to get clean. Living that close to the edge makes you near-sighted. So when asked to think about what to ask from the Governor, the answer is a port-a-potty or for city workers to empty the public trash. So that daily life can be cleaner, safer, more comfortable.

These people are living too far down Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs to think bigger. Someone observed that there’s a predatory nature to being on the street. It’s not pretty but it happens.

There is a women who is sick. She has seven children. Her family can’t take care of her because they are taking care of her children. Any government money she gets she sends to them. Another woman had her children taken away. She can’t tell the story without tears. She admits to drug use and I have no idea whether her kids should be with her, but it’s clear that she needs them.  We spoke to several women at the campsite (there were men around but only women spoke) and they all mentioned some level of drug use. They all also mentioned some level of sexual violence – abuse too – but really rape. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a woman on the streets.

The story that touched me most was a young woman who looked like someone I would have met in library school – small, blond and dark rim glasses. She was well spoken and very approachable. Her story was tough. She said she was born into poverty. She grew up on the streets. Her mother was a hustler and she had been trafficked as s girl. She told us she was an addict and Monica was quick to point out that while she may be addicted, she was more than an addict. She had been through very tough times. She did say that sometimes the pain was so bad, the high couldn’t reach it. Meth was not strong enough to take her away from her past – a past she was born into.

Post tour I recognized that we had been through a surreal (yet too real) version of Dante’s Inferno. Each stop bleaker than the last. Or seen in reverse order it’s a ascent from hell, the more attention a person experiencing homelessness gets, the more hopeful they become. They go from asking for the most basic of support – a toilet, to dignity – a shower, to help for the future – training for jobs.

We heard from three people who had formerly been homeless and now are not. For one the key was getting sick and tired of being sick and tired and using the resources around him on the day he was ready. For another, it was having a specific outreach worker (Monica) reach out to him on the right day. A common denominator for anyone experiencing  success in moving away from homelessness was a personal connection. Just as we learned people had to learn how to be homeless – and that is likely a one-on-one lesson, people need support learning not to be homeless. That means finding them a safe place. Then it means having someone confirm or deny “rules” you hear on the street – like you can’t get services without an ID and if your ID is stolen, it’s very difficult to replace. (Several people seemed to think that a lost ID was a stopper.) It means having people around you who are making the same healthy decisions you want to make. It means giving people room to progress and opportunity to go from needing support to being support.



Housing is too expensive for many families, they need help to thrive and Minnesota needs thriving families by Ann Treacy
March 14, 2019, 12:18 am
Filed under: St Paul

Today I attended Homeless Day on the Hill. Mostly I attended the press conference because the Committee Session was full, the overflow room was full and even the halls were filled with people watching the session of the Health and Human Services Finance Division. They were talking about HF1043, increasing shelter, services and housing.

The issue is that people can’t live with the MFIP subsidies provided. MFIP subsidy is unemployment insurance for jobs that don’t provide it; its income for children and hasn’t increased since 1986 – $437/month for a parent and child. We heard from one woman (video below) who lives in Duluth on $532 in support a month; she has two children. Her story was that one morning, about a year ago, she woke up with seizures. Now work is an issue. We heard from several people today. The Street Voices for Change folks had a lot of experience understanding how and why people needed help. The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office had stories of what happened when everyone worked together as happened in St Paul during some of our coldest days.

BUT the video I’ll start with is my friend, homeless advocate, Monica Nilsson. She was interviewed (unprepared, except she’s always prepared) by the media on general questions about homelessness – such as how does homelessness happen and what policies could help.

Very simply, homelessness happens because housing costs more than many people can afford, especially when you factor in the need for first and sometimes last month deposit. There isn’t enough affordable housing to go around – especially for families. Homelessness has increased 40 percent in the last 4 years. And it’s not just an urban issue. It may seem like that, especially after last summer and the homeless encampments in St Paul and Minneapolis but one-third of homeless Minnesotans are in Cities, one-third in suburbs and one-third in rural areas.

Normally I’d just post this on Facebook – but Facebook is broken today. (Which means no livestreaming of meetings, which means loss of remote civic engagement – but that’s another post!) I don’t want to lose the thoughts. And on a personal note, it’s fun when you see your friend be so good at her job.



Surveying the homeless for Hennepin County: 8 million stories in the naked city by Ann Treacy
January 24, 2019, 8:46 pm
Filed under: Minneapolis

Last night I joined about 50 other volunteers to survey people experiencing homeless for the Point in Time count for Hennepin County. I ask a bunch of questions; the answer-er gets $5. It’s less money than for the Wilder Survey, which is done every three years, but there are fewer and easier questions.

Volunteers attended a quick training where I learned that this is HUD-mandated reporting. I think the reporting is important – that which gets measured, gets done. But I’m not sure why volunteers are needed if HUD mandates it. At least three quarters of the people in the room were in the industry. They were outreach workers, shelter workers or maybe the brand new Commissioners (such as Human Services Commissioner Tony Lourey, Jennifer Ho, head Minnesota Housing Finance Agency and a few folks from Met Council). Kudos and thanks to all of them for being there – but imagine if people got paid to administer the surveys.

Imagine if people got paid a living wage to do much of the work that many of us do as volunteers. Don’t get me wrong, I find the work interesting. I don’t mind doing it. But maybe if HUD is going to mandate the reporting, maybe they need to pay for it. And maybe that would help end homelessness for some people.

Back to the surveys … I pulled the cushy job interviewing folks at the train station at the Mall of America. It’s warm there, it’s well lit and there’s a bathroom. Others talked to people on the trains and in outside places. I spoke to a half a dozen people or so. I spoke to one guy in his 30s. He had a Master’s degree. He had been in the Twin Cities just a few months and had a criminal record. I spoke to a girl in her 20s who admitted that maybe she had some issues with drugs or alcohol – but she’s “working on that.” A few folks had been homeless for moths or a year. One was going to sleep outside. (It was 20 degrees and falling.) Most would hang around the trains until the coffee shops opened. Everyone I spoke to was under 50 years of age.

Everyone was pleasant, happy to talk and even happier for an opportunity to make a quick $5. A few wanted to know where to get more help. I had a brochure to share. Most had written off shelters because they seem full before they are even open. We learned that there are 1025 adults, 400-500 families and 75 youth sheltered in Hennepin County – and those beds are full.

My experience is only my experience and I think it you talk to one person experiencing homelessness, you know what it’s like for one person. Everyone’s story is different. But if you want to hear a lot of stories, you listen to my friend Monica, who spoke at the Legislature at 8 am yesterday and then spent her whole night (until 4am or later I’m sure!) doing surveys last night. If there are 8 million stories, she has heard 7 million of them!



Women’s March MN 2019 – beating the cold for change by Ann Treacy
January 20, 2019, 12:05 am
Filed under: Minnesota, St Paul

It was minus two degrees when we first got to the Women’s March MN 2019. So cold! But it was sunny and beautiful. It was a day to inspire people to get involved. It was a day of rewards for folks who are involved. Hopefully it energized us all. And it gave us all bragging rights for beating the cold – although I suspect the marchers in Bemidji and Barnum may have been colder.

It was a smaller group than in 2017. Estimates that year were nearly 100,000; I just read police estimate this year was 4,000. But I don’t think attendance reflects a diminishing interest or passion – just weather. It was 35 degrees warmer in 2017! In fact, I have seen attendance at monthly civic engagement events grow in the year since I have become involved with the Women’s March. We are buoyed by the midterm election and we are ready to keep engaging until we bring change.

Back to the march today…

I was livestreaming for the March and Aine was doing SnapChat. Because I was livestreaming, I didn’t get to take notes or even Tweet notes as I like to do – but I do have the full video to share. And it gave us the opportunity to talk to a few people about why they were there.

A lot of women are there to represent the people who can’t be there, people who can’t speak for themselves, for their kids and the future generations. It’s generous and it’s good use of privileges that many of us enjoy but I think we need to be there for ourselves too. Making things better for ourselves is a good lesson for future generations and helps create a space and a history of space. For the (upcoming) Women’s March MN music podcast, I got to talk to Tina Schielske about her latest band Genital Panic. We spoke a little bit about having a platform at an age when you have someone to say. Marching for that platform at all ages for ourselves and others is a good reason to march.

Not that youth don’t have messages too. They do! The impact of the Parkland shooting and of the strength of the students of Parkland was clear from all of the young speakers. They are on the frontlines of many issues, especially gun reform. They are still in schools learning how to deal with shooters. Would you keep a job where that was part of the orientation? The speakers here noted that seeing students from Parkland, seeing someone who looked like them (young) – encouraged them to get involved.

We heard from a wide range of amazing women: an attorney who survived an 18-hour standoff at the border to get 20 asylum seekers across the border (including a 17 year old girl traveling alone who is still being detained!), a young activist who lost a leg due in part to poor healthcare coverage who recognized that you can’t always help what happens but you can help what you do with it so she’s giving her voice to better access to healthcare, a native elder who has lost sister and a daughter who is active in the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, leaders from the Jewish and Muslim Women’s Coalition, Rep Ilhan Omar about her experience going from refugee camps to US congress and a young woman leading the charge for change in her school who is energized to see Omar, a woman who looks like her in Congress.

Lots of talk of change, and leadership coming from us, intersectionality – we all do better when we all do better and we all need to accept a hand up and extend a hand up. One line I loved, a quote from Shirley Chisholm – If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair. We need to bring two, one for us and one for another new voice. Tokenism is out – we’re louder together.



2018 MN Homeless Memorial March and Service by Ann Treacy
December 21, 2018, 4:05 am
Filed under: Minneapolis

This is always a very sad, yet very beautiful event. A march and service for the members of the homeless community who have passed away in the last year. That includes people experiencing homelessness and advocates. Many friends will remember Nick Coleman’s passing this year.

Each person is remembered on the march with a sign carried by a walker and in the service, when the call the name and light a candle for the deceased. Monica Nilsson carried the sign for Nick, which was very fitting. I think between his powerful pen, and Monica’s inside knowledge they have been able to shine a light on individuals and the community who needed help.

This year the priest talked about a larger light shone on homelessness in the last year. It started with the Superbowl in Minneapolis in January. While a fun event for most people, the game, the hoopla and activities such as shutting down public transport made life tougher for people experiencing homelessness and there were demonstrations. Fast forward to summer, fall and into winter and the Twin Cities housed two large homeless encampments in St Paul and in Minneapolis. Both have received a lot of media attention. Both have been shut down, leaving most of the residents to find another place to stay in a town that simply does now have enough affordable housing or adequate shelter to accommodate the need.

A little like the #MeToo movement – it’s a slow work in process. I don’t see a lot of change yet but at least I see a greater recognition for the need to change and do better. I think that’s why I find this service so heartwarming, it’s hosted and attended by people on the front lines – people who are always remembering and doing better.




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