10 Questions About…


What does it take to walk a marathon for your birthday: FAQ by Ann Treacy
June 28, 2020, 8:19 pm
Filed under: Minneapolis, St Paul

The quick answer is that it takes 11 hours and some great friends to walk a birthday marathon! Below are some of the details in a FAQ format:

Why?
I always feel like if you have a summer birthday, you should make the most of it. With social distancing, that meant getting creative. This was a way to see different people while keeping pretty social distant and outdoors.

Who do you want to thank?
Katie Lynch, Monica Nilsson and I walked a marathon on my birthday (June 26)!! I want to thank them so much for humoring my crazy idea. I want to thank my family (special nod to Chef Billy) for help with lunch and dinner! I want to thank Liz Draper with crew (Sarah York and AJ Srubas) and Little Man for playing at a couple of the stops. And I want to thank the friends who joined us along the way!

What’s the best part?
Having no responsibilities except putting one foot in front of the other – for 26 miles. Katie lists it as one of the top 5 days – ever!

Did you plan a route?
Yes. I used a tool called Plan A Route. (You can see the plan online.) It was pretty easy. I only planned for 25 miles because I knew we’d make up the difference running across the street to get water or running back three blocks to get a picture with the Mary Tyler Moore statue. Here are the highlights I planned:

  • 9:30am – start at my house
  • 10:45 – Minnehaha Falls
  • 11:30 – Dunn Bros at Lake Street
  • 1:30 – Sculpture Garden lunch
  • 3:00 – Stone Arch Bridge
  • 5:30 – The Monument
  • 6:30 – Turf Club
  • 8:15 – Midway Express Car Wash Cookout

Did you stick to your route?
No. I had a very urban wilderness plan where we stuck heavily to the River Road. (That’s Mississippi River for the non-local readers.) Then about 11am I freaked out that we were going to be late for lunch and then meeting Liz. So we took the most direct route from the River to the Sculpture Garden, which turned out to be Franklin Avenue.

Franklin Ave is pretty gritty. Monica, who has dedicated her life to the homelessness community, has worked in that area a lot. We walked past the homeless encampment of two years ago, The Wall of Forgotten Natives. Katie had two favorite moments – one was Monica giving us the history of the area for the miles we walked. Ask Katie about the history of Peace House, you’ll be impressed. Monica is a good storyteller! And every third person yelled hello to Monica by name.

Did you really go 26.2 mile?
Even with the detour, we walked into the car wash at 26.11 and then walked the extra four minutes until we got to 26.2! That was our marathon miracle. Monica, who is amazing at math, hit the wall before we did. So Katie and I had to trust our math – substellar plan. But it worked out perfectly!

What was the hardest mile?
I’m going 20-26 on that one. Monica hit the wall at 20. In part because she is the only one of us who has run a marathon – so she knew what was ahead. Also she got blisters. (Tip: can’t say enough about Glide for your feet. Not one blister here!) Katie and I hit the wall about mile 24.

Who joined you?
I was amazed that people joined us along the way. It made the walking so much easier. My dad started with us. He left at one end of the Ford Bridge and we met Mary Lindgren Carter on the other with her friend Tanya. Mary has been a friend since high school and we try to walk sometimes – although she’s an early bird and I’m a nigh owl. Mary and Tanya turned around at Lake Street and we met Denise Cumming who told us a very funny story about taking an online ornithology class at the U of M and unknowingly shouting the F word while unmuted. She dropped off as we got to her block and that left three of us until the Sculpture Garden, where my mom and dad, Kevin Somdahl-Sands and kid and Alyssia met us. We had a quick lunch, nice chat and a chance to sit down and a few pictures. Then the core three headed to downtown.

Kevin met us again downtown near the Mary Tyler Moore statue. We headed to the Stone Arch Bridge where Liz Draper and crew were playing for us. That was Katie’s other highlight. It had been so hot walking across the bridge then to get to the shade and awesome music was such a treat. And Ellie Sherwood met us. (Ellie did the amazing picture of me and Monica last year.) Then traced out steps over the bridge, walked by the place of a former homeless encampment that I thought was one of the most amazing things I had ever seen. Then I think we walked our longest stretch alone until Su Reanny met us on Summit Ave. (Summit Ave for non-locals is polar opposite to Franklin.) Su is a Women’s March buddy – we saw her the next day too doing extraordinary work marshalling a protest at the Governor’s Mansion. Kevin met us again near the Turf Club.

Right at 8pm, we landed at the Car Wash. (My dad and brother own the car wash. Billy often has a start and end of summer car wash cookouts and was kind enough to do the same for my birthday.) And we had Chris Perricelli (Little Man) play a few songs. Chris did a car wash video and interview with me and Heather Baker earlier this year. So I’m trying to think of the new people who joined us – Kevin and his family, my family, including Aine, Heather, Kathi Eilers, Jake and Julie Mortenson. Then as a special treat Daniela Smith met us at the Dubliner after the cookout!

How was the weather?
Amazing!!! We (Katie, Monica, my dad and I) left my house in the drizzling rain. We were worried but hopeful. We decided against umbrellas, which was a good call. Frankly we had near perfect weather all day. A few misty showers in the morning and cloudy all afternoon. Not too hot for too long.

How do you get musicians to play at your marathon or party or picnic or whatever?
You call, ask and pay. Without trying, I’ve been saving money during the COVID shutdown because the “no live music rule” saves me going out the 6 nights a week I used to average. I was super happy to invest a little into musicians. Maybe small outdoor shows are a way to help musicians pay bills, keep in tune and for us to have fun again! And maybe that’s an idea worth spreading.

Did you train?
Yes and no. We didn’t do anything special. (Heck, Katie decided to join us on Thursday!) But all three of us are pretty avid walkers. I probably walk the most with 8-15 miles a day. (Depending how many Zoom calls I can do on the move.) But the other two are runners; I am mostly not a runner.

Would you do it again?
Abso-stinking-lutely!



Ann-demic: birthday walking marathon – June 26 by Ann Treacy
June 15, 2020, 1:22 am
Filed under: Minneapolis, St Paul

We’re going to walk a marathon. We have the route planned. You’re welcome to join in for all or part of the walk. Or we have some stopping points picked out. Or meet us at the end for the car wash cook out!

We’re roughly thinking 3 miles an hour. We’ll keep track of our progress on the day you can access our route – or aim for one of our landmark stops below.

9:30am – start at my house
10:45 – Minnehaha Falls (photo op)
11:30 – Dunn Bros at Lake Street (water/bathroom)
1:30 – Sculpture Garden lunch
3:00 – Stone Arch Bridge
5:30 – The Monument (Summit & River Road)
6:30 – Turf Club (photo op/drink?)
8:15 – Midway Express Car Wash Cookout
10:30 – Dubliner (we might get a Lyft there!)

Please let us know if you plan to meet up with us so we can keep an eye out and plan accordingly!! And if you have a stop between stops to suggest – please do!
ener”>plotaroute.com



George Floyd Protests Day 5: Peaceful protests by day, riots by night – what are we doing? by Ann Treacy
May 31, 2020, 3:56 am
Filed under: Minneapolis, St Paul

Last night I slept for the first time in days. Yesterday I toured places in St Paul to see the damage from rioters. I have much of the travels in video below. The girls in Canada wanted to see what home was starting to look like. So I’ll just give some highlights.

I was halfway to Midway (by foot) when I got a call from Alyssia – she was nearly to the Turf Club so we met here there; a bar with great music and better staff, a place where I’ve spent a night or two and where Alyssia works. The Turf Club looks OK – smelled like smoke, doors broken, certainly work to be done but mural outside intact, the posters inside still hanging. We checked on the Ax-Man down the road and learned from Eric, who works there and lives nearby, that he had been watching shenanigans in the for 9 hours the night before.

I saw buildings that were destroyed. The Sports Dome is gone. The Pawn Shop burned so hot the paint on the garage across the alley was melted. There were 8 fire trucks surrounding Big Top Liquor the whole time I was there. Liquor stores, vape store, convenience stores, anyplace with electronics or tennis shoes were gone – looted and burned. Some places like Furniture Mart were full of broken windows and broken glass but otherwise, not bad. Bars seemed OK – Midway Saloon (formerly Big V’s) and Black Hart’s (formerly the Townhouse) had clearly been broken into but others OK. The Auto Zone totaled. (For some reason Auto Zones and Targets seem to take the brunt.)

And I saw the helpers. Dozens of volunteers sweeping, shoveling, handing out masks, water, other necessities and niceties. Fireman putting out the remaining fires. Shop owners doing what they can and wondering out loud why they had been hit or why they had not.

I ran into Kevin we walked around. Just as I was feeling weird about walking around taking pictures we saw one my favorite Midway Murals (still intact.) next to a burned out gas station and I remembered it was less than a month ago I was out taking pictures of the murals. It’s what I do except usually a celebration of my town.

We also drove down Grand Avenue, a little closer to home. I had heard about some grab and go looting the night before. We saw lots of shops boarded and boarding up. The convenience stores had been hit and one half a mile from my house was totally burned out.

Then we ventured to Lake Street in Minneapolis, near the Third Precinct. On that same corner is a place (The Hook and Ladder) where I have danced for hours. Just down the road is a place where Aine participates in an amazing STEM program (Midtown YCWA). But now it looks like the city I see on Unicorn Riot – not the city I know.

We walked around. We saw the homeless encampment where they kicked everyone out. Imagine being homeless and having to move because of riots! The buildings are burned out. Again, volunteers were cleaning. The State Patrol and the National Guard are keeping civilians out. One skinny, young white dude is taunting a tired officer while a personal of colors watches. He’s explaining racism to a cop and a person of color. There’s got to be a term that combines mansplaining and white privilege with the need to be seen and heard.

Usually I’m a fan of graffiti – what I saw was mostly sad. There was a Marxist quote, “When our turn comes, we shall not make excuses for the terror.” It strikes me more even than the “This is Hell.”

Today was a new day after a very dark night. The terrorists are winning. A press conference with Governor Walz and the Mayors of St Paul and Minneapolis it was clear that the protestors and rioters outnumber the police (and National Guard). There is worry that rioters on both sides have come from all over the US. They are extreme and care little about our community. The level of misinformation, persuasion and bias is overwhelming. We have an 8pm curfew and the Governor asked people to stay home so that they can fight the rioters without worrying about bystanders.

It feels like the Twin Cities are being sacrificed in a war of anarchists, fascists, white supremacists. Each faction seems to feel their view is worth the destruction of our community. It’s frightening as I sit in St Paul alone listening to the helicopters and wait for the sirens. And I can’t think too hard or abstract freight will turn into internalized fear. Instead I will remember today our community came out to remember George Floyd and ask our leaders to demand more from our police. As Mayor Carter said we can hate what happened to George Floyd and want our community to be safe. Those are not conflicting views.

We saw so many helpers leading traffic, handing out masks and food, holding signs, chanting, showing support and registering people to vote.



A terrible beauty is born in the death of George Floyd by Ann Treacy
May 29, 2020, 3:38 pm
Filed under: Minneapolis, St Paul

May 25, Minneapolis Police Officer Chauvin killed George Floyd, while three other officers did nothing. The circumstances are in debate (did Floyd resist arrest, did Floyd work with Chauvin, is there a criminal offense?!) but there are pictures and video of Chauvin kneeling on his neck until he appears lifeless. I have not heard that disputed.

These four men opened the door to hell for the Twin Cities community. As I type, rioters are in the Third Precinct; they are setting off fireworks and burning a police jacket left behind. Closer to my home in St Paul, I can hear helicopters, sirens and popping – maybe of guns. I’m lucky in that I don’t know for sure. I was at Midway Target earlier and saw a cat and mouse game of people getting closer to the cops until they drew their guns. But that was hours ago. I can’t find a livestream but I hear that Midway is burning. Earlier tonight Aine and I were at a peaceful protest downtown Minneapolis streaming for Women’s March MN. But it feels like maybe that was some kind of distraction.

The revolution will not be televised; it will be livestreamed.

I hope this is the birth of a terrible beauty. A terrible beauty is born is a line from WB Yeats used to describe the 1916 Easter Rising, when Ireland started a revolution that led to a free Republic of Ireland – a revolution from the British. The movement gained tremendous momentum after the British executed the Irish leaders of the weeklong rising. The deaths of those leaders was the turning point in public opinion. That’s a reminder to folks who wonder – have they gone too far? People asked the same thing of the Irish before 1916. The question is – have we pushed too hard?

Will this be the moment that brings change? I have been on the frontlines BUT on the off hours. I haven’t seen much in person. I’ve been thankful to the livestreamers. Everyone is there for their own reason. Many are looking for justice for George Floyd. Many are looking for systemic change – a reformation. Some are looking to incite violence to support or hinder change. I’m afraid for my city. And the only hope is that this brings the systemic change we need to make the Cities safer and better for everyone. To quote Paul Wellstone – we all do better when we all do better. And to misquote – we all burn when we all burn.

I will highlight a video from Chicago and 38th. Nia Wilson was registering voters in the middle of an angry but peaceful demonstration. It gives me hope!

I started writing this last night. I am no smarter today but I figured I would post it – before I head up to Midway for the community clean up.



Amazing Grace for George Floyd played at Governor Walz’s mansion by Ann Treacy
May 27, 2020, 3:11 am
Filed under: Minneapolis

Tonight in front of Governor Walz’s mansion two musicians played Amazing Grace in the rain to honor George Floyd, a black man who was killed last night (May 25) by Minneapolis police.

I happened to drive by at just the right time on my way home from the protest for justice for Floyd. I had heard rumors of music teachers playing at sundown. I have always wanted to go and tonight I just happened to drive by seconds before they started their last song, in honor of George Floyd who was killed 24 hours earlier.

Floyd was a 46 year old man who was killed as a police officer knelt on his back and neck for several minutes. I haven’t watched the video but apparently he told them he couldn’t breathe, called for his mama and then nothing. I have seen the picture. It doesn’t look as if the police officer (or his three colleagues) were in danger. It is reprehensible. They have been fired.

Today there was a protest to let Minneapolis police, mayor and city council know that firing isn’t enough. There were thousands of people there. Most were wearing masks. Social distancing not as easy, but from what I saw people were respectful and supportive. The gathered at 38th and Chicago where it happened. I heard from local neighbors that protesting started at noon, although it was scheduled from 5-7pm.

The crowd moved from the original location to the Third Precinct. We followed. I was streaming for Women’s March MN and Monica streamed to her formidable Facebook friends. People were angry. As angry as protestors I’ve seen at rallies in the past, which is to say angry and fed up. This seemed so senseless. This racism and hateful act dwarfed the COVID-19 pandemic for a day.

We left after 7pm. The protest was still going strong. It was starting the rain hard. I have learned that the longer a protest goes past scheduled end, the increase in dangerous ending. When we left it was still nonviolent but on my way home I drove past 6-10 police cars away from the Precinct but poised. Apparently after we left the protest become violent.

What I want the police, mayor, city council and world at large to hear is that thousands protested what happened. We want change. I want them to hear the sadness and reverence in Amazing Grace and find the humanity to make that change.



Gloria Steinem: Democracy 101 our bodies belong to ourselves by Ann Treacy
February 20, 2020, 4:44 am
Filed under: Minneapolis

Thanks to my Women’s March MN buddy Teresa for the invitation to see Gloria Steinem get interviewed by Kerri Miller tonight at the University of Minnesota. What an honor to get a perspective from someone who has been focused on lifting up women for so long and has met so many smart and interesting people along the way. If I were in school Id’ be asking for extra credit from all of the things I learned tonight.

Lesson One: Democracy 101 our bodies belong to ourselves
Inherent in democracy is the idea is that people have agency over their own bodies and their voices. Gloria (yup, I’m going first name here) mentioned this in light of reproductive rights and the #MeToo movement. It seems obvious once you hear it but today women do not have agency over their bodies. Just earlier in the day I attending a Rally for Reproduction Freedom. Abortion is legal in Minnesota but there are a lot of hoops required. If a minor, you need permission from bother parents. Doctors are required to provide nonmedical info to patents, which as info on child support. You need a 24 hours waiting period. There are only 5 clinics in Minnesota that perform abortions and 3 of those are in the Twin Cities. You don’t need permission or a waiting period for a gun. And you don’t need a waiting period for any other medical procedure. Women’s reproduction should be healthcare, not politics.

Lesson Two: Never too young
When asked if there was anything she could change about her life as an activist Gloria said, I would have started earlier. It sounds like she felt the need but lacked the boldness at a younger age. It made me proud of dragging my own three girls to demonstration and rallies at a very young age – certainly stroller age. It’s a different era to be sure and I think that shift in personal and community boldness has helped us raise girls who are more comfortable participating and leading social change at young ages – including the Youth Strikes for Climate Change and Students Demand Action for gun control.

Lesson Three: Christianity is a Patriarchy
Women give birth; as Gloria says, we corner the market on that. The church offers rebirth in baptism. Even better they do it to erase the original sin inherently passed from generation to another to anyone born of woman. Even better than rebirth away from sin, the church promises life after death, a reward that cannot be proved. Instead of celebrating birth, the church denigrates it by trying to one-up the process.

Lesson Four: ERA is good economic stimulus
Equal Rights for women, equal pay for women would put $500 billion into the economy each year. OK, Gloria wasn’t so specific but I looked it up

If all working women in the United States aged 18 and older were paid the same as comparable men, women’s average earnings would increase $6,870, from $38,972 to $45,842 (or 17.6 percent) annually (Table 2). Added up across all working women in the United States, this would amount to an earnings increase of $512.6 billion, or 2.8 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016 (see Figure 2 for state-by-state data).[1] Put another way, U.S. women—who are also consumers, savers, and asset owners—lost $512.6 billion in 2016 due to the gender wage gap.

Lesson Five: Equality won’t be reached until child raising is equal
Historically raising children has fallen to women. To a huge extend that’s still true today. I always thought that issues around that related to unpaid work impacting perceived value of women and just the lack of economic security for women who have stayed home. Gloria brought up another reason: some men regress when admonished by a woman, especially in the workplace and more strongly when that woman is a supervisor or otherwise some power over him. That may be because for some men, the last woman in charge was their mother. They haven’t learned to accept direction or criticism from a woman.

It’s a lot to take in – in an hour-long show. I’ll be taking it all in over the next few days. Plenty to think about.



Prioritizing Joy! Or why I’m helping to open a homeless shelter on Valentine’s Day by Ann Treacy
February 15, 2020, 5:18 am
Filed under: Minneapolis

Years ago, I heard Solofa Batterjee give a TED University talk about things she has learned from her father. The lesson that strikes me most is – if you don’t know the difference between pleasure and joy than you haven’t lived. There are times in my life that I have better understood and times when I questioned it.

When I first heard her speak, my kids were pretty little I was all about spelling tests, eating the crusts of their pizza, giving up my sweater because they were cold – more joy than pleasure. I remember those days fondly. Now my kids are older and I order my own food, I see live music instead of do spelling quizzes and I keep my sweater – so it’s all pleasure. Subsequently the opportunity to feel the joy is welcome so, for Valentine’s Day I helped my friend (and lifelong homeless advocate) Monica Nilsson open a homeless shelter – Elim Strong Tower Shelters in NE Minneapolis. Actually it’s two adjoining shelters; one for women (Elim) and one for men and couples (Strong Tower). The grand opening was tonight.

However that doesn’t mean working with the shelter isn’t pleasurable. It is. People are kind and interesting. It is a reminder of how lucky I am to have so much. I always learn something. I met a man who used to spend summers on a farm in Mississippi. I had a tasty dinner prepared by people who have experienced homelessness in the past. I got to hang with Monica and her brother Dan.

It’s not a traditional Valentine activity. But I have enjoyed Valentine’s Day more this year than I have – maybe ever. A heart shaped box of chocolates have never made me happier than watching guests enjoy the ones they received.

It makes me think that the focus of Valentine’s day should stretch beyond romance. Maybe we need to focus on joy!

The shelter will be open for at least the next three months. We expect it will be filled soon, but it’s not yet. So now is a good time to get in. Guests can call us in advance to reserve a bed and once in, they can hold their space while they need it. One of my favorite moments of the night was hearing Monica call the Minneapolis street outreach teams so let them know that there were new beds in the city – send people down. Word needs to get out but it’s so nice to know that more people will have a place to rest. If you know of someone in need, please send them our way:
Elim shelter phone number: 612.814.2490 (women only)
Strong Tower shelter phone number: 612.756.6606 (men and couples)



Governor Walz joins us on the biannual survey of homelessness by Ann Treacy
January 23, 2020, 11:27 pm
Filed under: Minneapolis

Twice a year Minnesota conducts a biannual point-in-time (PIT) counts (surveys) of people experiencing homelessness. Last year, I helped administer surveys with my friend Monica Nilsson. This year there was a special guest– Governor Walz. (Careful readers will remember that I spent some time touring shelters and under a bridge with Monica, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor last summer.)

Apparently when he heard about the survey, he wanted to make sure it was on his calendar. People spread out around the state to do surveys; we were stationed at the transit center at the Mall of America.

There was no press. No one to impress except people experiencing homelessness and a bunch of us volunteers. So when he told one gentleman that, “There are a lot of people who care” it felt like it meant something.

I saw him talk to about five people. He asks good questions. He listens. He gives them full attention. He blends in. And he’s the one (or part of the team of people) who found funding for shelters at the end of 2019. In fact, Monica is involved with shelters that are getting funding. (More on that later I’m sure.)

What impresses me is down playing the photo op, (Although god love him, the Governor is happy to pose with all of us!) the critical listening first and acting later.

The Governor gets some interesting answers and advice. A gentleman in a wheelchair explains that yes, he would be interested in an accessible shelter *if* it were a smaller shelter. A younger man who is bouncing around talking to lots of people in the transit center, says if he had money, he’d open a coed shelter. (He was delighted to hear that such places already exist.) Another women, who is well spoken and admits that she has trouble getting a job because of some felonies suggests that maybe we could repurpose existing spaces for shelter, such as the US Bank Stadium. So critical listening is important; like any topic – everyone is an expert. And expert of not, these are the people on the frontlines.

It was fun and heartening to have the Governor there. I’m sure he’ll read the results of the surveys but being there is so much more meaningful to him and certainly to the people he visited.

Because I was helping in other ways, I only surveyed one gentleman this year. He has been homeless for more than two years; he was 56 years old and this is his first time being homeless. He works part time with no mental (or other) illnesses, no record and no addictions. Very friendly. Ten minutes after talking to me, he settled in to read his Bible.

Just as the Mall of America is a coup for me doing the surveys, it’s also a more attractive place to stay if you’re stuck for a place. There’s a bathroom. It’s well lit (tough for sleeping but good for safety) and it’s warmer than the outside. There was a presence of homeless folks all night until they were shuffled to Metro Transit when the center closed at 2am. There was one woman loudly evangelizing a mantra, “The homeless win the lottery and they won’t give us the money.” She was alluding to public funding and donations for the victims of the Drake Hotel and apparently thought there were millions of dollars made available but kept from the victims. It’s an example of grassroots fake news.

And on a side note – I did talk to Governor Walz a bit about broadband because the day before I sat five feet from him and livestreamed a press conference where he announced the recipients of the 2019 MN Broadband grants. He told me that he thinks we have a good chance of getting $30 million this year (to add to the $20 million already in the budget) for broadband grants and seemed delighted to be able to say – “broadband now, we’re winning that one!”

Now if only I could think of some ways that broadband could help with homelessness – like job training for better employment and access to online opportunities, remote access to healthcare to make aging in place affordable and possible, remote access to mental health resources to keep people off the streets…



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.



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!




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