| |Ward 2 Candidate Forum
| 10.11Click here for City Council Candidate Q&ALittle Bohemia Neighborhood Association is sponsoring a City Council and School Board Candidates’ Forum on October 6, 6-8:30 p.m. at Journeys Secondary School, 90 Western Ave South (651-293-8670). Meet and hear from City Council and School Board Candidates. 6pm: Meet the Candidates. 6:30pm: City Council Candidate Forum. 7:30pm: School Board Candidate Forum.
St. Paul has a strong council system and we need a person capable of moving the institution. Give examples of times when you moved an organization to adopt and implement a difficult position.
- City Council Candidates: Bill Hosko, Jim Ivey, Cynthia Schanno and Dave Thune.
- School Board Candidates: Anne Carroll, Mary Doran, Keith Hardy, Keith Huepenbecker, Pat Igo, Devin Miller, Al Oertwig, Lizz Paulson and Louise Seeba.
Bill Hosko (billhosko.org):
Over the years our city government is the organization I have most worked to assist or influence. One example was blocking a city effort to move the Farmers’ Market out of Lowertown in 1997. I led a successful petition drive to keep the market from relocating to the West Side Flats.In 1999 a massive housing complex was proposed for Union Depot’s platform area. I worked with Mayor Norm Coleman and created comprehensive concept illustrations to advocate for restoring Union Depot as a transportation center.In 1994 I made recommendations to Mayor Norm Coleman to steer the Science Museum from relocating to the West Side Flats to the Kellogg Boulevard site they ultimately chose to build their grand new facility on.
Jim Ivey (iveyforsaintpaul.org):
Moving an idea forward requires facilitating strong consensus from the bottom up and addressing pitfalls before the idea gets to high levels. That means being where people are: I will attend neighborhood gatherings or knock on doors every single week. Between February and September, I attended 25 district council board meetings. What I found at these community meetings were many people frustrated with city hall and feeling like they don’t have a partner there. I met people with great ideas for more vibrant business corridors, more green spaces, and improved housing; but these ideas were hitting roadblocks at the city level. That won’t be case with me.I also have the dedication and work ethic to fix problems that real people face, no matter the red tape involved. For example, on the Skyway Advisory committee I identified potential light rail construction impacts on the elderly and people with disabilities. I spent a month investigating the skyways and sidewalks. Then I literally sat down in a wheelchair and spent another week documenting the problems I’d overlooked while walking. The hard work paid off: the city and the Met Council finally embraced the solutions to directly improve people’s daily lives. I will be a proactive partner in solving problems, not a roadblock. But when there are barriers to solving problems, I will be your dedicated partner in finding ways around, over, or through them.
Cynthia Schanno (voteschanno.com): Good ideas form the strongest basis for moving an institution that is mired in old thinking and failed ideas. As a successful small business owner, I have often had to initiate challenging and sometimes painful reforms in order to stay viable. As a member of the St. Paul Downtown Airport I worked with the MAC, the City of St. Paul, and the Port Authority to relocate tenants from MSP to the eleven reliever airports around the city. The project was a two year effort and we were successful in our objective which ultimately delayed the expansion or the building of a second major airport in the Twin Cities. Dave Thune (Davethune.com): With my seniority and experience as City Council President and my current HRA Chairmanship, I have led the Council in taking stands in favor of clean air, human rights and free speech. I have carefully shepherded development opportunities like the Schmidt Brewery redevelopment which will restore historic features and add 270 new artists’ live/work studios to the neighborhood. It is the first time in the history of St. Paul that a local neighborhood group (the West Seventh Fort Road Federation) has ever been given such a large and independent role in Community Redevelopment.What civic activities have you been involved in in the West End? How would you act to revitalize residential housing in the West End?
Bill Hosko: The West End has great potential to be a vibrant commercial corridor. In 2007 I helped to makeover the Nevain Insurance building on West Seventh and Canton Streets as an example of how the appearance of a property can be changed greatly without a great deal of expense. With a budget of $500 and a group of ambitious volunteers we brought this building back to life.I have also supported a number of West Seventh volunteer groups through donating my services and art works for benefits and auctions.Jim Ivey: For response see http://IveyForSt.Paul.org.
Cynthia Schanno: For the past twenty years, I have worked full time, raised my daughter as a single mother, and caring for my mother, who was ill for several years and passed away last year. With my mother no longer with us and my daughter in college I want to focus my attention and energy to making my community a better place. Time before last year was a limited commodity but that has changed now and I hope to become very involved.Projects I have participated in the past include the Airport Marketing Task Force, City Wide Clean Up Program, and Flower Basket Program.Dave Thune: I have served as President of the West Seventh Federation, President of the Monroe PTA, Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 427, member of the West Seventh Business and Professional Association. I have been active in community events like the Annual Cleanup and Fort Road Parade (which may make a comeback). I’ve worked with West End Arts, helped sponsor the annual West End Iron Pour and donated the services of my rock and roll band to various charities. My two businesses, Mad Hatters Coffee Café and the St. Paul Gallery have become community gathering places.
How would you act to strengthen the West Seventh Business Corridor and other businesses in the area?
Bill Hosko: Strengthening the West Seventh commercial district goes hand-in-hand with improving the housing stock. My “Ward Two 2017” revitalization plan includes specific suggestions for the West End. I support the renovation of the Schmidt Brewery as a multi-use facility – but the housing component here should not be limited to lower income or “the creative class.” It should include all income levels. With my background in architecture and design I will ensure that what builders and developers propose for here is remarkable and supported by the surrounding community.Encouraging more pride of place is one of the most basic and realistic ways to encourage renewed investment in any neighborhood, especially given our current economic climate. This is something I will be happy to do.Jim Ivey: For response see http://IveyForSt.Paul.org.
Cynthia Schanno: Government created the housing crisis and more government at any level is not the solution. People are adults and want to be treated as such. Consequently, there is little the city council can do to revitalize the housing in the West End or any part of St. Paul. Most things improve demonstrably when government gets out of its way. The same is true for housing.A review of the current housing programs are helping absentee home owner and the high rental issue is a problem. We need to support home ownership and use the existing dollars available to give a hand up and not a hand out.Dave Thune: We need to continue our successful city program to purchase and rehab vacant houses as we have in the Little Bohemia Neighborhood and to continue effective enforcement of our housing standards by working with homeowners and seniors who have trouble maintaining their properties and insisting that landlords control their tenants’ behavior and keep their property up. We were ahead of the times when we pushed the city to support our plans to emphasize West Seventh‘s historic buildings and housing! The neighborhood is looking very good.
Bill Hosko: First impressions here are important. I pointed this out four years ago while campaigning. The impressive upgrades particular West Seventh property owners and businesses have given their properties more recently have begun a trend that cannot be allowed to stall. I will work with other small and large businesses here to realistically keep this momentum going. This will create new jobs and city revenue streams.Jim Ivey: Creating good jobs is one of my top priorities. Instead of following the status quo by focusing on big-name projects and questionable subsidy deals, my energy will be spent finding ways to boost a broad network of small enterprises. Compared to corporate chains, research shows that locally-owned, independent businesses recycle more dollars back into our community. The city needs to make “Shop Local St. Paul” a household phrase. I will lead an effort to coordinate all our neighborhood business associations in a citywide campaign to persuade St. Paul residents to choose local businesses when they shop for goods and services. By shifting a portion of existing retail dollars into the local economy, we’ll create more jobs, open up more possibilities for new local businesses and increase our economic self-reliance.
Cynthia Schanno: Lower taxes for businesses can, paradoxically, create more revenue than outright higher taxes. I’m amazed at the anti-business sentiments of so many on the City Council who wonder why our business climate is poor. They and their policies are in large measure the problems.
I’ve actually run a business and run it successfully. Career political bureaucrats are not what the City Council needs any more. That day has passed. By listening to and working with businesses in the West Seventh corridor, the right balance can be struck to benefit all.
Dave Thune: In the past few years I have been the main sponsor from the city of the new United Family health clinic, our exciting new Fire Department - Station One, and now the completed sale of Schmidt Brewery property to the West Seventh Federation. All these have set a course for great new restaurants and coffee shops. There are very few vacancies on West Seventh. We are hopeful that retail will make a comeback as we increase our successes.What do you think of the Great River Passage Master Plan?
Bill Hosko: I support the plan, but would like to see a greater tourism emphasis along the downtown waterfront.Jim Ivey: For response see http://IveyForSt.Paul.org.Cynthia Schanno: I think the visionary and theoretic concept is wonderful, but who will pay for this. Promoting the river and supporting services to it could be very lucrative for the community but we must be careful in how we proceed. I was born and raised along the river. It could be a wonderful resource to expand upon just as long as ALL parties involved have a say.Dave Thune: The West Seventh community is acknowledged to be the main driver of the City’s embrace of the Mississippi River as a symbol and resource for us all. The latest plan - the Great River Passage - was influenced by West Seventh residents who sat on its working taskforce. The greening of Shepard Road, the recovery of our bluffs, the development of a Randolph Greenway, the further enhancement of bicycle lanes and paths and now the Victoria Park area which will become the city’s newest riverfront park and housing development are a result of our influence and vision.Do you support the idea of bus rapid transit on West Seventh? Bill Hosko: I use mass transit frequently. Rapid Transit would eliminate too much West Seventh on-street parking. The Route 54 bus works quite well currently. Ultimately I would like to see commuter rail service between downtown and the airport largely via the existing scenic rail line to Mendota.Jim Ivey: For response see http://IveyForSt.Paul.org.Cynthia Schanno: No, I do not support the bus rapid transit on West Seventh. I do not believe they need to make this a main corridor in and out of St. Paul; however, I do believe we need to promote commerce along West Seventh.Dave Thune: Several years ago we rejected and I successfully fought off efforts to remove parking, remove trees and narrow traffic lanes in order to force a limited stop transit way to the airport passing through West Seventh. Riverview Corridor transit ought to be focused on Shepard Road.West Seventh would be a great location for a city trolley system that blends with local traffic and serves our residents and businesses by making convenient local stops.What would you do as a Council member to sustain the City’s financial health?
Bill Hosko: Much of my platform is about achievable, cost-effective improvements to specific areas of Ward Two. Increased home occupancy, office occupancy and attractions such as bringing the Twin Cities model Railroad Museum back to Union Depot and working to see the Saints ball-team moved to Lowertown into a stellar venue (view it on billhosko.org) that reuses a major portion of the massive Gillette building immediately next to the Farmers’ Market. My concept can serve as a regional amphitheater as well. Realistically and collectively the small and larger opportunities to improve St. Paul’s financial health are there.back to top
Meanwhile, we must be judicious with our spending. I will not support spending practices that waste our city tax dollars. In our current economy we need to learn to do more with less.
Jim Ivey: As your councilmember, my top priority is to put people first. That means proactively seeking concerns and ideas from neighbors and businesses. My office will not be driven by the status quo at city hall: it will be driven by engaged residents like you. For example, I am out knocking on doors and hearing nearly every day from residents concerned about property taxes. For years we’ve been presented with a choice between cutting important services or raising property taxes sharply. It’s a failure of vision at city hall that they’re still hoping to be bailed out by the state legislature, without a Plan B. I will work with the mayor to establish a citizens’ commission, made up of ordinary St. Paul residents who are committed to learn about and explore fairer, more sustainable options for taxes. This commission will bring recommendations back for the city to act on. We need to give people a voice in exploring ideas and creating a path out of this budget trap.
Dave Thune: The main driver of City financial health is building strong residential neighborhoods! We as residents pay the lion’s share of property taxes (which I have worked to limit) and give the city its base. The City of St. Paul currently has an AAA bond rating which is better than the State of Minnesota and reflects the careful stewardship we have provided.
Zoning Changes for a Better Neighborhoodback to top
| 10.11 by Will WilsonZoning has been the subject of a lot of interesting discussion in West Seventh this summer, thanks to our Councilmember Dave Thune. And yes, I admit that the words “zoning” and “interesting” rarely occur in the same sentence. Zoning is arcane, complicated, and often subjective, but this summer we’ve seen two examples where changes in the zoning code are going to make our neighborhood better. Last October, Councilmember Thune started the discussion by requesting that city staff conduct two zoning studies on our neighborhood. While the studies were conducted, a moratorium on new zoning variances was put in place, so the City and neighbors had a year to study and discuss some changes.The first study was about residential zoning for a big block of the neighborhood — residential properties between 35E, Smith Ave, Cliff St, and Grace.West Seventh has great housing stock, but the economy has led some homeowners and landlords to carve up single-family houses into duplexes and triplexes. In most cases, the result is a house stripped of its historic character and actually worth less.The current residential zoning designation of the neighborhood doesn’t do much to remedy the problem. So the change proposed in the city’s residential zoning study would switch most of the lots in the area into a “one-family district” instead of a two-family district. The vast majority of owners won’t notice the change and it won’t affect them in any way – because they already have single-family homes. The real change would make 44 current duplexes or triplexes in the study area “nonconforming” properties.But even this doesn’t mean the owners of these 44 properties would need to do anything now — the change would only take effect if the property is registered vacant for a year. After a year, the zoning would revert to the underlying single-family zoning. Houses that were constructed as true duplexes can petition for re-establishment as a duplex. In essence, the change means that the single-family house is the default zoning code for our neighborhood. Any vacant, chopped-up houses will have a future as the single-family homes they were originally built to be. It will help everyone’s property value. The second study Thune requested was about commercial zoning, and it looked at the area between Smith Avenue, Grand Ave, West Seventh, as well as the vacant old tire store on the southeast corner of Smith and Seventh. The area is in need of a spark. From the boarded-up tire store on the corner to the fenced-in parking lots along Smith between Seventh and Grand, it’s truly unfortunate that such prime real estate in such a great neighborhood looks more like an impound lot than a bustling crossroads. And with zoning designations for fairly heavy usage, there’s a good chance that these lots could be developed into something that is worse for the neighborhood.The current zoning designation for most of the lots is “general business” or B3. This means development could be anything from a wholesale warehouse, a currency exchange (or a check cashing place), another huge hospital, or a recycling collection center. B3 zoning would also allow a building as tall as 15 stories. [Editor’s Note: This is a complex issue. Increase in height requires increase in setbacks either at the street or rooftop level. Contact email@example.com for details.] As someone who lives a block away, I would prefer some development that I can actually use. And honestly, curbside recycling is convenient enough for me.The commercial zoning study recommended changing the zoning to a designation called “Traditional Neighborhood 2” or T2. Rather than explain all the possible businesses this allows, I will simply say that the examples of businesses above would not be allowed. And here’s the officially stated intent of the designation in the city code:“The T2 traditional neighborhood district is designed for use in existing or potential pedestrian and transit nodes. Its intent is to foster and support compact, pedestrian-oriented commercial and residential development that, in turn, can support and increase transit usage. It encourages, but does not require, a variety of uses and housing types, with careful attention to the amount and placement of parking and transitions to adjacent residential neighborhoods.”I think this designation allows for development that my neighbors and I can use – including mixed housing and commercial. The maximum height of construction is 3 floors, and requires scaling, set-backs, and design standards that reflect the historic streetcar design of West Seventh.But to be fair, this is only my opinion and not everyone agrees with all the details of the commercial zoning change. In conversations with neighbors, owners, and businesses, there are other viewpoints. Some people want to keep the B3 zone so they can maximize profit if they sell to a developer. Others want more restrictive zoning that would define guidelines for the design of any new construction. I believe the recommendations in the zoning study strike a good balance. I think the change will allow for some creative development, but on a scale that fits the neighborhood. I also think it will allow owners and developers to make a decent profit, but not by building something monstrous. We will need to keep an eye on the development as it progresses. That said, I think that the commercial zoning change is a spark that will make positive change more likely. After input from the Planning Commission and the public, City Council approved both proposals on September 14. The result of Councilmember Thune’s original request for the studies and his shepherding them through the process will make our neighborhood better. As a resident, customer, and neighbor, I’m glad. Will Wilson is a policy analyst at the Department of Human Services and a West Seventh/Fort Road Federation board member.cutline: The West Seventh zoning study area.
Doing My Share of the World’s Work - Altrusa of St. Paul
| 10.11by Jerry RothsteinThere is a remarkable organization in St. Paul — the Altrusa International Club of St. Paul — that since 1931 has dedicated itself to providing service and support to individuals and agencies, with primary emphasis on helping women and children.Altrusa — derived from “altruism” to capture its essential message of service to others — originated in 1917 and became an international organization in 1935. First President Marie Bass said, “Service is those things of the mind and of the heart which are priceless to the giver and receiver alike.” As a “builder of women,” Altrusa has developed in the United States and internationally with many chapters devoted to personal self-improvement, fellowship, leadership and service, developing lasting friendships and enriching the lives of others.
As its international services expanded, Altrusa was granted observer status at the United Nations in 1946 and upgraded in 1978 to the level of nongovernmental organization (NGO) in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council. The Altrusa International Foundation (1962) works to improve economic well-being and quality of life through its commitment to community service, literacy and, more recently, promotion of environmental concerns. In the U.S., Altrusa service clubs offer young people 13-21 opportunities for community service.The stories of four local Altrusa members provide a much more personal understanding of the organization’s power to enrich lives.Pearl Jackson was Administrator of Volunteer Services for the Ramsey County Welfare Department in 1962, when she was asked to speak to the Altrusa Club on what they could do to help the community. She was invited to become a member the following year and, since then, has been president of the St. Paul chapter three times.Arlene Roth started with Altrusa in Ames, Iowa, when a friend insisted that she join by saying, “We do projects you care about.” Arlene was also active in the chapters in Duluth and Fargo-Moorhead.Caroline Nentwig, like Pearl, came in through her teaching role with the Ramsey County Opportunities Industrial Commission (OIC), a program that Altrusa was already supporting. She recalls that at the time she joined a new member had to be “high up” in a profession or society. This is one of the areas that the International has addressed and in which the St. Paul chapter has changed its criteria to become more welcoming to all potential members. Peggy Custard’s work with the Minnesota Visiting Nurse Agency (MNVA) brought her to Altrusa. She points to the difficulties that many service organizations are having in getting new members who share the vision of community service. Altrusa is close to its mandated membership, but stills hopes to meet and invite new people.Each club has its own mission that is derived from their particular assessment of their community’s needs. The St. Paul chapter has focused its work on immigrant and refugee women and children. One way to leverage their own energies is through partnerships. Altrusa, for example, connects with Zonta (a worldwide organization of executives in business and the professions working together to advance the status of women) through the MNVA, and with the immigrant women’s organizations described below.Altrusa St. Paul fulfills its mission of providing financial and volunteer support through participation in the Herberger’s Community Day sales, and through holding Treasure Sales and fundraising dinners.The heart of Altrusa’s work is outreach to the three local immigrant agencies that serve women and children adjusting to life in Minnesota. Each year, the chapter reviews and assesses its work and plans for the year ahead. Current activities are focused on (a) The Confederation for the Advancement of Hmong Women (whose Executive Director, Ly Vang, is a member of the chapter); The Minnesota African Women’s Association (whose Executive Director, Nyango Melissa Nambangi, MA, continues as an active Altrusa volunteer); and The Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota.These nonprofit organizations are all struggling for funds and other kinds of support. The power of Altrusa to make a difference for these groups derives at least in part from the symbolic welcoming by an old, established community organization of the newer less secure arrivals.The chapter also supports the MNVA’s work with teenage mothers, putting together resource kits that include a “baby book” and supplies for feeding and bathing needs. It has also successfully applied for grants for literacy programs — one of the International’s main priorities.In addition to these major activities, it seems that Altrusa St. Paul is constantly seeking “just one more thing to do.” An Adopt-A-Family program at Christmas; hosting luncheons at the International Institute for young women and men going into the Institute’s nursing program; participating in the Festival of Nations; support for “The Well Project,” an effort by several Rotary Clubs to provide wells and schools in Kenya; support for Sarah’s Oasis, a safe place for refugee women who have experienced abuse.Altrusa is also supporting the work of Grandmother Circles in Kenya. Some of the grandmothers have lost their husbands and have refused to follow the tribal custom of being inherited by their husband’s brother. They are shunned by the tribe and forced to live outside the villages. Others are grandmothers raising their grandchildren and other orphans who have lost their parents primarily to the AIDS epidemic. Altrusa St. Paul women identify with the African women in spite of the vast differences in their circumstances. Perhaps this reflects how much the founding principles of Altrusa can become an essential part of its members’ lives:“Altrusa believes it is not enough to be good; Altrusans must be good for something. Each member must be doing the piece of work that is hers in a way that puts her in the front ranks of accomplishment.”For information e-mail Altrusaofstpaul@yahoo.com or see Altrusaofstpaul.com.
Altrusa board members (standing l-r) Caroline Nentwig and Arlene Roth;
(seated l-r) Pearl Jackson and Peggy Custard
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| |Tim Johnson’s Calling: Thirty Years at Cherokee Park United Church back to top
| 10.11by Jerry Rothstein Tim Johnson’s path on the life of the spirit unfolded slowly to his own discernment. His parents conveyed some guiding beliefs: the sacredness of life; the spiritual dimension of our existence, beyond the material; and perhaps most importantly, the dimension of caring for people. They were farmers who could easily have allowed Sunday afternoon to be a time of rest. Instead, Tim remembers clearly, they used it to visit people in need and to be with them. These things stayed in his mind. With a bachelor’s degree in history and political science, Tim was drawn toward social work, and spent four years working around the Twin Cities, especially with young people, in shelters, St. Joseph’s Home for Children, and at the Arlington House program (the still-operating shelter for adolescents in St. Paul). There he learned that being a caring person is not enough to succeed in helping people whose lives have turned on poverty, emotional and behavioral issues, and lack of trust. Tim realized that if he wanted to continue in this work he also needed professional skills and, at the same time, he was wondering whether his calling might be the ministry. One of those serendipitous moments occurred—he learned of a joint program at the University of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary where he could earn both a Master of Divinity and a Master of Social Work degree. Which direction he would take remained an open question until he accepted a student placement at a small, dying congregation in McKeesport. It was a welcoming group, tolerant of his student status, and after two years he chose to be ordained there. Tim says that he chose the ministry at that point because it resonated with his sense of sacredness in life and his belief that meaning can emerge from the spiritual dimension. He hoped to discover new models for being in a church community. He sought a congregation where there would be room for questioning, a sense of mystery as well as a sense of humor, and a nonauthoritarian attitude. When he learned of the position in St. Paul he found that Cherokee Park United held affiliations with both the Presbyterian Church and the United Church of Christ (UCC). He wanted an urban setting and even though he came out of a Presbyterian seminary, he especially resonated with the United Church’s openness, concern for social justice and ecumenical nature, as well as all the implications of the UCC’s continuing effort to work with the idea, “God is still speaking.” But when Pastor Johnson began at Cherokee Park United it, too, was “aging and declining.” They liked the fact that he had his MSW, thinking that he could find part time work in case they could not manage his full time salary. But Tim never had to return to social work, although he feels that the possibility allowed him a greater freedom to take some risks and challenge the congregation toward new initiatives. During the thirty years, membership has grown slowly but still steadily. The congregation spans a broad range of ages that includes young families with children and “no missing generations.” Members of the church community are clear on their core values and commitment to actively living out their faith in caring and compassionate ways, emphasizing community action and social justice. Some of the church’s most valued activities include hosting the West Side Youth Farm, holding summer peace camps, and significant programs around anti-racism. Cherokee Park serves as fiscal agent and provides leadership to the Anti-Racism Study Dialogue and the Facilitating Racial Equity Collaborative — the latter a partnership of Ramsey County, the YWCA, the Science Museum and the Minnesota Department of Human Services. The church attends to its own inner needs as well. This year, a task force is studying the ways the church is either living out or missing the mark in its commitment to the anti-racism work. The congregation’s commitment to cultural diversity is heard loud and clear at worship services, where music from many cultures has become a key element, helping to bring a sense of involvement in the global community. Every aspect of the church’s activities involves an element of worship, whether it is a full service or a meeting of one of the “ministry teams” that focus on particular issues (anti-racism, faith-life, for example). Meetings always begin with time for prayer of reflection, connecting and sharing with each other, fostering openness of spirit in every dimension of church life. Cherokee Park United also shares its space with three other congregations—English speaking and Spanish speaking Pentecostal groups, and a Mennonite Church. The start of a new decade can bring one’s path into sharper focus. Pastor Johnson plans to begin with a sabbatical leave, during which he’ll pursue studies in Celtic spirituality — an area he feels has many affinities with the roots of Cherokee Park United Church. “The church has revisited its mission regularly and has grown in all dimensions thanks to such ongoing renewal,” Tim says. “I have never felt that things were stagnating.” He sees an opportunity to continue to grow with his congregation while making improvements in infrastructure and assuring the strength and health of Cherokee Park United Church.
What’s Happening with Homeless Assistance in Ramsey County? | 10.11 by Deborah M. PadgettThe Homeless Advisory Board’s members (individuals and organizations) are battling against time and the current economy to create an awareness of the urgent need to take housing support for our citizens with utmost seriousness. The Homeless Advisory Board (Joint Ramsey County/City of St. Paul) “… advises the Ramsey County Board and St. Paul City Council on issues affecting people who are experiencing homelessness and recommends policy changes to reduce and eventually eliminate homelessness in the community.”
Homeless Advisory Board members meet at Claddagh Coffee on West Seventh: Ryan Strack, Maplewood School District; Carol Zierman, Heading Home Ramsey; Rod Ooten, St. Paul representative to the board; Mary Hogan-Bard, community member and Claddagh owner; and Deborah Padgett, St. Paul appointee to the board.The overall board includes individuals from local and county government, charitable and faith-based organizations, people seeking service and/or having been served by these agencies, and city-wide organizations such as United Way, YWCA, Union Gospel Mission and The Salvation Army. The scope and scale of the board runs an entire continuum of service specific to the needs of individuals in danger of being homeless and all the complicating factors related to that plight.Carol Zierman, Chair of the Board and administrator at Heading Home Ramsey, suggested, after attending a national symposium on housing assistance, that the board draft an open letter to our local elected officials detailing the fine and extensive work that’s being conducted here in the county and beyond. While we want to clarify for our neighbors, community members and elected officials the positive nature of this work, the primary motivation for the letter is to spell out the immediate need for resources and funding.Zierman and a subcommittee of the board met at Claddagh Coffee on West Seventh in mid-August to create a rough draft for the letter. The draft was presented to the board at its September meeting. Inclusions and exclusions were made. We now have a succinct and comprehensive letter ready for publication and presentation. The main tenets of the letter are as follows:“Housing stability for our community members is a foundational element needed for a stable and vibrant community and economic growth. Although there is considerable work underway to prevent and end homelessness both at the local and state level, there is simply tremendous need for housing assistance today. Cost-effective solutions have been found for even long-term homelessness. We know what works to prevent and end homelessness; we simply do not have the capacity to respond to the growing level of need in our community, given dwindling resources. “We implore our leadership to think strategically about how to invest in our community, that is:How to grow living wage jobs.How to help train or retrain workers.How to actively engage retired community members in our community wide response.”Zierman often makes reference to the “Golden Triangle” of housing instability as it relates to families, youth, women and children and single adults. Housing, employment and transportation mark the essential angles of the triangle. A “Golden Square” adds an angle; childcare, essential to many parents to escape the downward spiral created when families find themselves without a place to live.We are soliciting the help of our elected officials. We ask them to think and act boldly — to be brave. We implore them to think creatively.The letter will be published and presented prior to the upcoming November elections. Please urge your own neighborhood and elected leaders to take action. Issues related to homelessness effect us all and we can all take part in meeting the increasing needs.A subgroup of the Advisory Board has formed to plan housing assistance tours for elected officials. Once the letter has been sent the intention is to offer tours a few weeks later. Subsequently, a formal workshop will be conducted for the County Board in November. The tours and workshop will demonstrate further the imperative to act boldly and decisively.If you or someone you know is in need of housing assistance: Families call: 651-215-2262, M-F, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Youth: 651-224-9644, M-F, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Single Adults: call 651-647-2555 M-Th to schedule appointment through housing screener. If you need immediate assistance call United Way, FIRST CALL FOR HELP at 211.Deborah McWatters Padgett is a writer, painter and community participant. She lives with her husband, ceramic artist and retired professor of art, Michael Padgett, just off West Seventh Street in St. Paul.
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