Four year ago, Align Mpls (formerly Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness) facilitated the development of Street Voices of Change (SVoC)—a supportive and self-empowering advocacy community for persons experiencing homelessness. SVoC grew to hold sessions in four congregations, including The Basilica on Tuesday mornings (pre-COVID). Their agenda includes supporting one another and raising issues that might end their homelessness or save lives. Within 2 years they responded to harsh and unjust stories of living in the Minneapolis homeless shelter system by developing a Shelter Resident’s Bill of Rights (SRBOR).
The SRBOR states that people in shelters should have a safe and dignified experience while staying at shelters. The rights they claim are simple: They assert every shelter resident has the right to be treated with respect and dignity. Shelters should have adequate space, be clean and safe. Case management should work to help exit shelter. Staff should be trained, compassionate, and create a safe welcoming environment. Shelters should provide secure property storage.
With Align Mpls’s support, Street Voices of Change connected with Hennepin County Commissioners and Shelter Providers. As a result of their advocacy, Hennepin County now requires implementation of the tenets of the SVoC Shelter Resident’s Bill of Rights in county shelters. Cognizant of the need for SRBOR’s implementation and enforcement across the entire state, SVoC has successfully secured the support of Homes for All Coalition, and tenets of the SRBOR are now included in their MN State Legislative Agenda for 2021.
One of the dreams of creating Street Voices of Change was for our congregations to empower those who experience homelessness to advocate and work to support themselves—with the real possibility of bringing the tens of thousands of people in our combined congregations behind them—in support of them. They, more than anyone else, know what is needed. If they can name it and work toward it, we—as partner congregations—can use our voices to support them.
It is very exciting to see this dream come to fruition, with SVoC’s Shelter Resident’s Bill of Rights. They have done the work. Now it is time for our congregations to support the changes that are possible.
We ask everyone in The Basilica community to engage in advocacy to move components of the Shelter Residents Bill of Rights through the legislative process. We need your voice to make this happen!
Currently the MN House is moving a bill forward that would create a taskforce over the upcoming year to study state wide possibilities for shelter residents’ rights and shelter provider practices. A report will be generated and funds appropriated. Bill HF900 is gaining momentum. The MN Senate is moving Bill SF1120.
Contact your elected officials and offer your support for these bills. To find your elected officials, go to https://www.leg.mn.gov/ Let them know:
• Everyone deserves a safe and dignified place to rest their head at night.
• 60% of unsheltered folks choose to be outside, on the train, or somewhere unfit for habitation because they do not feel safe in shelters.
• 30% of people in single adult shelters are under 18 or over 55 years old.
• Shelters should be regulated to protect the people they are charged with like every other sector.
Together we can support our brothers and sisters who are homeless and create a safe and dignified shelter system.