Home at Higher Ground, he advocates for others

“You need to show up and speak. I’m constantly emailing my elected officials. If I don’t, nothing will ever get any better. You gotta keep trying. I’m really hoping funding goes through.”

Steve, Catholic Charities client and advocate

Steve uses a cane, has asthma that turned into COPD, suffers migraines and other health issues. Getting around doesn’t come as easy for the 57-year-old as it once did, but he still got up at 6 a.m. on a chilly March morning so he would be ready to make the trek from his one-room home at Catholic Charities’ Higher Ground Saint Paul to Central Presbyterian Church and then onto the Minnesota State Capitol for Homeless Day on the Hill.

It was his first time participating in the annual advocacy effort, which drew more than 700 people to the capitol to advocate for housing stability and economic security. He hadn’t been to the capitol since he was a high school student participating in the mock legislature back in the 1970s, but he was compelled to return.

“The main thing was, I was trying to get funding for the next building,” Steve said.

The “next building,” is St. Paul Opportunity Center and Dorothy Day Residence, Phase II of Dorothy Day Place. The opportunity Center will include critical services such as job training, a community clinic and a Veterans Resource Hub. The project relies on $12 million in state bonds for completion.

With his neighbor, Blair, and Catholic Charities’ Case Manager Marik Armstrong, Steve was able to meet with his representative from District 65B, Carlos Mariani.

Rep. Mariani was the chief author of the bill which provided funding for Higher Ground Saint Paul and he’s been a strong supporter of those most in need.

“Rep. Mariani wasn’t just listening to Steve, he was taking notes,” Armstrong said.

Steve wanted Mariani to understand a bit about his life and his challenges, and he listened.

“I told him I get $203 a month for General Assistance and I pay $106 for rent here at Higher Ground. There’s not much left over, especially if I was to buy a bus pass,” Steve explained.

Steve is a lifelong Saint Paulite—and incredibly rooted to the block he now calls home. He was born at St. Joseph’s Hospital, but then their birthing rooms were in the basement of Mary Hall.

Steve experienced homelessness on and off for about a dozen years. He had been renting a trailer but when he opened his doors for a coworker and her three children who had no place to go; he was evicted.

He’s slept on mats at Dorothy Day Center, stayed at Union Gospel Mission and spent a few years at his birthplace, in the basement of Catholic Charities’ Mary Hall.

While he’s comfortable in his new home at Higher Ground Saint Paul, Steve realizes there are many others like him who still need homes, and sees the benefits of services which will be offered at St. Paul Opportunity Center.

It’s what brought him to the capitol that chilly March morning, it’s what keeps him going to the computer lab to stay up to date on issues.

“You need to show up and speak. I’m constantly emailing my elected officials. If I don’t, nothing will ever get any better. You gotta keep trying. I’m really hoping funding goes through.”

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