"Totally Solvable:" Homeless Conference is Future-Focused

Baihly Warfield
Updated: September 13, 2018 06:13 PM

DULUTH, Minn. - Hundreds of people on a mission to end homelessness are in Duluth Thursday and Friday as the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless is having its annual conference at the DECC. 

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"If you care about education, if you care about healthcare, if you care about thriving economies, you have to care about housing," MCH Executive Director Senta Leff said. 

Because all of those things are connected, being homeless disrupts every area of a person's life. 

"Homelessness is not a character flaw, it's a math problem," Leff said. "It's totally solvable."

So at "the Future is Now" conference, it's all about solutions. Jordan May, executive director of the Red Lake Homeless Shelter, helps people get off the streets and into a space with four walls. 

"When someone comes in to a shelter or to a program, just to have someone care," May said, "it's ... giving someone hope."

May also co-chairs the Minnesota Tribal Collaborative to End and Prevent Homelessness. It's made up on five tribal nations -- Bois Forte, Red Lake, White Earth, Leech Lake and Mille Lacs -- that work together on getting funding and being a resource. 

"Non-native people from other programs and everything know the actual seriousness of homelessness on reservations and how to actually identify and relate to the Native American population," May said. 

Another population that continues to struggle is youth. 

"The majority of people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota are still kids," Leff said. "Over half the homeless population in Minnesota is a young person, and over half of those kids are under the age of 5."

According to Leff, homeless camps cropping up on reservations or in big cities are not a surprise. 

"In the early '80s, the HUD budget was slashed by over 70 percent," Leff said. "We immediately saw a spike in people without a place to live."

For the people working to change that, sharing ideas is motivating. 

"You feel like you're not alone," May said. "You're not the only one dedicating all your time and all your hours to just providing and helping people."

The conference continues Friday. 


Baihly Warfield

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