This op-ed story was produced during the Fall 2020 Youth Voice Workshop.
Growing up in South Minneapolis near the Little Earth area, I have witnessed the increase in homelessness and the struggle that people have been going through. I have seen the uncomfortably high numbers of tents, sleeping bags and blankets, with people trying to survive in both the warm and cold Minnesota days. Although many people find it easier to ignore this issue and believe that the state will take care of it, there will be no long–lasting nor permanent change unless we stand up for people who are homeless and bring awareness to their plight. And of course, this pandemic has only worsened and will continue to worsen the homelessness crisis. The economic downfall is leaving many without the support or resources they desperately need.
The level of homelessness among Native Americans alone is outrageous. In Minneapolis, Native Americans represent 27% of the homeless population according to a recent count, yet only make up 2% of the city’s population according to the 2010 Census. This disparity is extremely alarming and saddening. The homelessness crisis overall only continues to worsen with numbers on the rise. In June alone, city officials estimated more than 550 tents in Powderhorn Park, marking the largest known homeless encampment in Minneapolis history. Both the supply of resources and the safety of people who are homeless are under attack due to this pandemic. Many fear getting sick due to the lack of sanitation in the encampments and their concerns are only amplified by the uncertainty stemming from this pandemic.
The reality is that things don’t look like they are getting better any time soon, the pandemic is still rampant, and the weather is getting worse. However, there are ways that you can help. People Serving People is an emergency shelter that works to prevent homelessness in Minnesota. You can help them support those in need by donating items such as clothing, providing financial contributions or volunteering your time. The American Indian Community Development Corporation is an organization that works to strengthen American Indian communities, such as providing culturally unique initiatives, housing and entrepreneurial programs. They would greatly appreciate and benefit from financial donations. We as a city and community need to stop neglecting people who are homeless. Although we are all struggling and are scared, we must stand up for those who are more vulnerable and need the most support.