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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.



MN Homeless Shuffle: Police clear out the St Paul Homeless Encampment by Ann Treacy
November 16, 2018, 3:14 am
Filed under: St Paul

Today the St Paul Police evicted the campers down at the St Paul Encampment. The video below captures moments from a 90 minute visit. I am with homeless advocate Monica Nilsson through most of the video so she is the one you hear talking.

The police came to move people on to new locations. New beds opened up today – 14 beds. There were about 40 people at the camp. The people in the camp are not the only people in the city experiencing homelessness. There will be a lot competition for those beds. So on a practical basis, the police were there to take people to other outdoor locations including the encampment in Minneapolis. (The Minneapolis encampment is better setup with porta-potties, running water and now heated tents.) Or maybe they will end up on the train or a bus all night. A few may get lucky and find a bed.

It’s a big people shuffle.

People pack up their stuff – but not all of it. Some of it isn’t worth taking. Some of it is too hard to carry. It’s difficult to watch people who have so little leave so much behind. Thankfully it wasn’t too cold but it’s November in Minnesota so it wasn’t warm either. It was much colder two days ago when campers got the eviction notices.

Like the end of a super sad parade, staff (from the Department of Transportation) were there to clean up the mess. And doing the encampment version of vacuuming under the feet/tents of slow moving campers.

It’s a crazy situation. When I arrived I saw police on horseback – luckily that was the only time I saw them. Sheesh. There were about a dozen police officers and various other paid city/county/state staff. I heard someone from the City say they have spent hundreds of hours working on the situation. So much money spent planning, talking, dealing with the homeless and this is what they come up with? Seems like there might be a better use of those resources.

This isn’t the first time the camp has been evicted. I’ve seen people setting up their tents the by 3pm after a morning clear out. But this seemed different and they put up No Trespassing signs.

My heart goes out to the people who had to leave. I wish a warm, safe place for all of them. Friends have asked me about how they can help. I defer to my friend Monica and borrow from her advice…

Please call Mayor Melvin Carter and St. Paul City Council members, Ramsey County Commissioner and State Legislators. Ask them what their plan is. Where do they suggest they hide and still be seen for help? Office of Mayor Melvin Carter, 651-266-8510 City Council Phone: 651-266-8560

There are a few places online where you can learn more and/or sign up to help. Advocates for the People of St Paul’s Cathedral Hill Encampment, Walking with a Purpose and Franklin Hiawatha Encampment.



Where are the homeless people to go when a tent on the sidewalk is too much to ask? by Ann Treacy
November 13, 2018, 11:26 pm
Filed under: St Paul

There are two big homeless encampments in Minneapolis and St Paul and plenty of mini or solo encampments. You can find homeless people on public transportation at all hours of the night. It’s an epidemic and a sad testament to our sense of community and fairness that youth, women and men are all out sleeping outside with one eye open in temperatures way below freezing. (It was 9 degrees this morning!)

It’s crazy! And today (Tuesday) at noon I saw something even crazier. I saw six or more police and city workers hand eviction notices to people sleeping in tents in St Paul. They are expected to leave by Thursday at 10am. Apparently a new cold-weather shelter has opened with

50 Winter Safe Space beds opened Nov 1, operating from 10pm-9am, 14 will be added Thursday, 5 will be for street outreach referrals, the rest for law enforcement referrals.

The video is rough but you can get the gist below.

The encampment in St Paul is just west of 35E as it passes United Hospital, in the shadow of the St Paul Cathedral. There’s a strip of land behind the Summit mansions that includes a sidewalk and wooded areas. Many workout nuts know the steep staircase that runs from the James J Hill House to the encampment. It’s not a well-traveled area, except during Crashed Ice.

There were 30 tents there today, which seems about average for the location. (And presumably sleep way more than the newly available 5 beds on the offer!)

According to the eviction notice, the police can drive people to a shelter on Thursday, but most shelters are not open at 10 am. My expectation is that on Thursday people will be moved but will return later that day, as I have seen happen in the past. Because there is no space at the inn! There is nowhere to go.

We spoke to one gentleman staying in a tent, wearing a short sleeved shirt as I stood shivering in two jackets. His question – where would be a better place for people to go?

The St Paul camp is contained with a fence and highway on one side, and a fence and hill on the other. He suggested the City charge dollar a day to cover the cost of clean-up and a port-a-potty. He insisted he was OK here. Although he wouldn’t say no to a zero degree sleeping bag. He had a tent that was insulated at least from the ground and a heater he turned on sparingly.

Shelter isn’t even on his shortlist. He knows the cards he has been dealt and he is doing the best he can. He thought maybe the Department of Transportation owned the land and therefore might be out of jurisdiction of the St Paul Police. In fact it sounded like he might be looking at up today to see what to do about that. A group of people experienced in street outreach, including my friend Monica Nilsson, discussed the options for people, trains or outside in another St Paul neighborhood.

Lots of people are living at the encampment. I see ingenuity, compassion and community at the encampments. I see good choices, bad choices, no choices.

In 1991, Wilder estimate that there were 3,500 homeless people; in 2015 that number was 15,109, which was actually down slightly since the last count in 2012. I know about the Wilder estimates because I have been one of the counters. I volunteered in 2012 and 2015 to interview people who were homeless for their “single night out” report that happens every three years. I have always done a late night shift, interviewing people from 10 pm to 1 am at the bus terminal at the Mall of America. The police at the MOA told me that the numbers of people they see has never been higher. I’m not looking forward to seeing the numbers.

I wish we could focus more ingenuity, compassion and community from the outside encampment to create better solutions for people staying there. We have been dealt better cards, we should be able to do better by our neighbors.

Because several people have asked me what to do to help – I’m including a link to a recent Facebook post from Monica https://www.facebook.com/groups/754392541578897/permalink/755715954779889/



How can we have so many people experiencing homelessness today in St Paul and Minneapolis? by Ann Treacy
October 17, 2018, 11:45 pm
Filed under: St Paul

It is heartbreaking to think that there are people in Minnesota sleeping in tents because they have nowhere else to go. Right now we have two tent cities in the Twin Cities that are big enough to be getting media attention. Last month I wrote about the encampment in Minneapolis. Today I stopped by the encampment in St Paul.

I have walked through the encampment before with Monica, advocate against homelessness. As she has pointed out to me, the encampment is ironically in the shadow of the Cathedral and cross street of Mother Teresa Calcutta Boulevard. I stopped by today to take pictures because we had heard that the police were chasing folks off – to which of course we heard they said – no worry, just arrest us.

When I arrived, people were setting their tents up – again. Last time I was there, I counted 22 tents. Today at 3 pm I saw 5 or 6 that were set up and people were moving in to set up camp.

I was talking to some guys as they set up their tent. Turns out the cops showed up around 8am and told everyone they would be coming back at 10:00 to clear then out. They did return and cleared folks out but again by 3:00 people were setting up again. Like Sisyphus rolling a rock up a hill, only to have it immediately roll back down.

The problem, my new friend told me, was human waste. There is no porta-potty at the encampment. He had places that he went – like a gas station but he didn’t think everyone did that. The encampment is near a wooded area – in what I’ve always called the alley of Summit Avenue, which means just beyond the backyard of some of the nicest houses in the city. Also, he told me, no one was going to be allowed to stay after November 1. Now what they are going to do to prevent people from staying, I don’t know.

So that’s what I know. I’m sharing pictures with permission. It just seems crazy that people have no where else to go, that we can’t find affordable housing, that the city would chase people out just to have them come back. I’ve talked to several people in the area. Some are working. Some are using. Many are on lists to get housing. Some are waiting for the new shelter to open up, others are dubious. Everyone is worried for the winter.

 



Tent City in Minneapolis – a community biding their time for an answer we need to create by Ann Treacy
September 10, 2018, 5:15 am
Filed under: Minneapolis, St Paul

Today I went to visit the tent city on Hiawatha Ave near Cedar Ave, in Minneapolis, where people who are experiencing homelessness have set up tents. There are about 200 people staying there right now. I went with Monica, who is well acquainted with the world of homelessness, after working tirelessly in the community for decades.

I’m not as knowledgeable or experienced. Although we did visit the emerging tent city in St Paul last week.

I am tempted to start by asking what’s wrong with a community that has so many people sleeping outside in tents – or on trains or buses or anywhere but a safe bed?! Where is our humanity? But I’ll hold back and just talk about what I saw.

First thing you notice in a tent city is the sea of tents. There are dozens of them in Minneapolis. Most are setup along side a wall. Some have tarps added above as extra protection. In St Paul, I learned, that on Monday the police “red tag” the tents, which means they have been cited and will be coming down on Wednesday. Most people throw those tags away. But if your tent gets taken away, the police tell you to go to People Incorporated. When you get there, they give you a new tent. This doesn’t happen in Minneapolis.

Many people are sleeping in the tents or just hanging out. There are people of all ages and I noticed a few wheelchairs and canes. Kids are playing around the tents. I saw a tiny baby who couldn’t have been more than two months, I saw toddlers, preteens and a few teens. Kids are playing as kids do. Pretty polite but way more interested in playing with a train than anything else going on.

In Minneapolis, Natives Against Heroin seem to be hosting or managing the campsite. Those are strong terms but they are the best I have. There are two tents set up with logos from Natives Against Heroin – one includes an upside down American flag – an upside down flag being a universal sign of distress. Nearby are tables with food and clothes, which have obviously been dropped off as donations and a large pot cooking up stew. People are generous but the food can be random – a big box of bananas, homemade buns, coleslaw. From what I’ve heard and what little I’ve seen, the people who are most generous are the people closest to poverty line themselves – people who maybe know what it’s like to be hungry.

The stew was cooked by a matriarch-type with donated meat, cans of veg, cooked pasta dropped off in party-size baking tins.

There are kids asking “when is it going to be ready” just like you can hear in every house in town at this time. And once it’s ready they are happy and they know the drill – to line up like it’s a picnic buffet. The only catch with this lovely stone soup, they have bowls but no spoons. So that’s not like every house in town.

I saw one “sink” or a large barrel of water and a make-do wash up area. Mostly the area seems pretty picked up; unfortunately the city garbage cans are overflowing. Although it’s a Sunday – hopefully there’s a pick up tomorrow. No point in setting up garbage cans if the refuse isn’t collected often enough. There are also port-a-potties set up on either end of the campsite. It doesn’t feel like enough infrastructure to keep 200 people safe, clean and healthy.

There is a sense of community. There’s a shared meal or at least shared food available. But then everyone has their own space too – within their tent. Thankfully, I have never experienced homelessness but I have to imagine that having that space where you know you can stay tonight, where you can maybe even keep a few belongings must be a great relief.

There’s no sense of urgency. No one is rushing to get anywhere. Time stands still. Our intent was to be there for 30 minutes; we were there two hours. People are biding their time. Some have been drinking. Sadly a woman died of an overdose earlier this weekend. People try to escape in the ways they can. While others persevere.

The question is what will happen when the snow flies? The mayor says the tents can stay. He doesn’t want to move people to another outside area. We saw police walking their beat through the tent city. They try to be there if they are needed but also don’t want to intrude. They worry about under-reported crime; they worried about safety of the people in the tents. They don’t see an end coming soon. They suspected some people would leave when it gets cold but otherwise not much movement.

We need people outside of the tent city to care. As I said, there is no sense of urgency in the camp. These people are at the end of their tether; they cannot do long term planning. They have a place to put their head tonight and that’s all they can take on today. But kids can’t grow up this way. People can’t be their best selves. The area is ripe for an epidemic or incident that could be an even greater disaster. And it will be too cold soon. We need to step in and care – to have compassion, donate, volunteer and vote for people who care.



Father’s Day Protest to keep families together – so hot and so uplifting by Ann Treacy
June 17, 2018, 11:39 pm
Filed under: St Paul

It was 98 degrees today. I only went to the protest because I committed to Tweeting for the Women’s March there. The cause was keeping families together – the Minnesota Immigrant Rights  Action Committee hosted it. It started at the offices of the Republican Party of Minnesota and the march went through Cedar Riverside to the top of Washington Ave. (For readers outside the Twin Cities that has the largest immigrant population in the area – especially from East Africa.)  I figured I’d be there 10 minutes, Tweet and leave. I figured there’d be a few dozen people.

Wrong on all accounts. There were loads of people there. And I marched for the duration because it felt good to be with people with compassion. People – some who seemed likely to be personally at risk for immigration issues – and many who just recognize that families need to be together, who realized that as a country we’re better with greater diversity. Better on all fronts – better problem solvers, better art, music and food, more innovative.

I walked for a while with a woman who was not American born but was adopted as a child to American parents. She said she felt some form of survivor guilt. So despite a disability (and again crazy heat) she marched. I met new candidates running for office. I saw one I knew – and I’m anxious now to hear her views on other issues. I met a woman with two daughters (maybe ages 6 and 8) who thought it was important to get kids going young. I told her it would pay off – that I have seen my daughters at rallies and protests with and without me now that they’re older and they started young too.

Walking down Cedar Ave, a woman from Wadajir grocery in lovely robes and head scarf handed out boxes of water and other drinks – thanking us for marching. Holding cars up at each street we passed, I saw a driver and passenger get out of their car to applaud the march. There was a ska band marching with us! So awesome!

Unfortunately I also saw a truck try honk and mock run down a marcher as he yelled get a job. (Wanted to tell him we took the Lord’s day off to protest idiots like him but I was too far away.) While buying a Diet Coke, I heard the manager of the convenience store say – no bathrooms for protestors, we’re closed to them. I suggested maybe he wasn’t as closed to protestors as he thought. And I did see organizers buy a lot of water from him later – so again closed only in his mind.

In the end, the kindness and compassion far surpassed the ill will – which I hope is an omen for the end of this movie!



Week of Graduations: Congrats to Aine (8th Grade) and Kate (High School) by Ann Treacy
May 31, 2018, 4:19 am
Filed under: St Paul

We have had a very eventful week – two graduations – Aine graduated from 8th grade – and Kate graduated from high school. It’s the end of an era in a few ways. I have had a kid in Nativity for 14 years. No more.

Mostly we’ve been happy with it. It’s probably too religious and definitely too conservative for me. BUT the same school – in walking distance from home – for 9 years for each kid. The school knows them and they had a big comfort level with the kids and the school. Also – they have the best principal ever – Kate Wollan. She knows every kid’s name – and really gets what makes each individual kid shine.

Aine’s graduation was very nice. She looked like a grown up kid – and not only because she was wearing my high heels. After the ceremony the kids had a party. It was bitter sweet. The hope is that Aine will go to Nova (she’s 4 on the waiting list!), which is an unusual choice for her class. So she’ll be moving on and making many new friends. I think the thing Aine may miss most from Nativity is the robotics team – although she plans to visit to help out next year.

The week topped off with Kate’s graduation at the Cathedral tonight. Actually we started this morning with Mass and brunch. It was very nice. And then ended with the ceremony at the Cathedral. It was beautiful. Kate looked great in her cap and gown. It was fun to see her with her friends, especially Lucia. (They were voted Best Best Friends in the yearbook!)

I am excited for Kate next year. She is going to the University of Manitoba (Lily goes to U of Winnipeg). I’m glad that they will be near each other and also glad they are not at the same school. I think it will be good for Kate to be in control of her own day to day destiny. I think it will bring her peace. I know she’s ready.

Memorable in her graduation was the speech by her favorite teacher Mr. Spika. (His picture is included below.) He teaches religion but as Kate says, it’s not really like religion. He has had diverse guest speakers come to talk to the kids about everything under the sun. Then he got the kids to give speeches about some of their most personal accomplishments and stories.

Recently someone gave me a very hard time about sending my kids to Catholic schools. I did it because I think the education is good and I like the sense of community. But in many ways, I diametrically oppose the Church’s view on many things but Mr. Spika’s speech reminded me that part of the education is helping kids learn that doing good is as important as doing well.

He started off with the big guns – literally. He praised the kids for their March For Our Lives march in support of gun reform. (You may recall Kate was a planner.) He spoke about several students and their firsthand experience with  gun violence on and off the school grounds. He spoke about the need to make the community (all communities) safer – so that women could run down Summit Ave at night, so that GLBT kids could walk where they want, so that we all understood that all lives matter – but in a spirit that recognized that really we need to know that Black Lives Matter. He reminded everyone that financial success was not the only or best success. And he told the kids that the voice in your head says “someone ought to do something about that” was really the Holy Spirit telling you it was your job. I might not use the term Holy Spirit – but I like the idea – and I feel like teachers like him have given them the tools to succeed in making the world better.

And I have to add that while I disagree most with the Church on issues related to women it is worth noting that the Top Ten Academic positions were all held by young women.

As a mom I never wished my kids would stay little forever. I am always excited at their steps forward. It’s so much fun to see what they take on, to seem them rock it, to see them happy. Today we all took two giant steps forward.




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