2023 Legislative Priorities
Nearly 20,000 Minnesotans experience homelessness on any given night, and individuals identifying as Black, African American or Native American are disproportionately impacted. Our state has an opportunity to make bold investments and reforms to disrupt trends in homelessness and help individuals achieve stable housing that is foundational to their health, education and employment success.
It is our mission at Catholic Charities to serve those most in need and to advocate for justice in our community. Our 2023 legislative priorities focus on supporting our direct service programs and addressing systemic inequities in housing.
Public Funding for Catholic Charities’ Safety Net Programs
Catholic Charities seeks dedicated public funding for its safety net programs, like Homeless Elders and our emergency day services, which play a unique role in the regional homelessness response system.
Catholic Charities Twin Cities is a leading provider of emergency services for individuals experiencing homelessness. Our staff provide daytime shelter, overnight sleeping areas, hot meals, daily essentials, and connections to housing, finance and employment resources to more than 10,200 adults and youth experiencing homelessness each year, with unique programs supporting a growing senior population and individuals who are chronically homeless with long-term substance use or mental illness. Public funding pays for less than 5% of all operating expenses for these daytime shelter services—a trend that has continued throughout the pandemic, even while demand for services has increased. Catholic Charities is seeking direct public funding to continue its safety net programs that strengthen the regional homelessness response system, with a focus on its Homeless Elders program and emergency day services.
Strengthening the Statewide Housing Support Program
Catholic Charities supports Housing Support reforms that address inequities causing individuals with disabilities and veterans to pay as much as 90% of their income toward housing, and that re-envision Minnesota’s definition of long-term homelessness.
Housing Support is a permanent supportive housing program that pairs housing assistance (e.g., rent, bed and linens, laundry, meals) with case management. It serves low-income seniors, veterans and adults with disabilities who are at risk of homelessness in all corners of the state. Inequities in how the state captures disability and veterans benefits causes some eligible individuals to choose homelessness over enrollment, however, and limits housing and financial independence for others. Reforming Housing Support income calculations would improve housing and homelessness outcomes while putting money back in the pockets of the lowest income Minnesotans. And rethinking the definition of long-term homelessness would ensure we aren’t telling our highest-risk neighbors that they “aren’t homeless enough” to qualify for support.
Flexible Funding for Shelter Operations
Catholic Charities supports ongoing investments in the Emergency Services Program and Homeless Youth Act that meet the scale of the homelessness crisis and provide balanced public support to stabilize shelter operations and our workforce.
During a time of historic budget surplus, our state continues to face a homelessness crisis that threatens not only the health and safety of Minnesotans but the financial stability of emergency services providers that serve our state’s most vulnerable. Shelter providers like Catholic Charities have relied on private donations and reserves to fund shelter operations at an unsustainable rate, and the impact of the pandemic, inflation and workforce challenges have escalated today’s funding challenges. Dedicated yet flexible funding is needed to stabilize shelter operations and our workforce and ensure Catholic Charities can help those in need not just survive but thrive as they work to achieve stable housing.
Increasing the Supply of Deeply Affordable and Accessible Housing
Catholic Charities supports state investments in deeply affordable and accessible housing for individuals and families at or below 30% of the area median income.
A lack of affordable housing is the number one challenge for individuals trying to exit homelessness. Minnesota must produce 2,500 new homes each year to meet the needs of the state’s lowest income households, yet there were just 150 homes built in 2021 for these individuals and families. Finding affordable and accessible housing is even more difficult for seniors and individuals with disabilities.
Addressing Discrimination in Housing and Barriers to Renting and Homeownership
Catholic Charities supports reforming eviction processes, prohibiting income discrimination in housing, and reforming expungement processes to ensure all individuals have access to stable housing options in their community.
Poverty and homelessness are inextricably linked. So, too, are the experiences of incarceration and homelessness. Reforms are needed to better balance landlord and tenant rights in the eviction process and prevent unnecessary evictions on renters’ records that will limit future housing options. Reforms to criminal expungement processes also are needed to ensure individuals exiting the corrections system have a fair second chance to find housing and work that will allow them to thrive in their communities.
For more information, contact Lorna Schmidt, Director of Public Policy & Advocacy, firstname.lastname@example.org.