By Kenza Hadj-Moussa
Kenza Hadj-Moussa is communications director of the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless.
At the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, we wear sparkly pink and silver beads around the office to celebrate each success. As legislative advocates at the Capitol, we're in this for the long haul. Marking each milestone with costume jewelry is a silly ritual, but it enlivens our spirit and reminds us to focus on the outcomes.
Ending homelessness in Minnesota is a big project, but it can be done. It should be done. The benefits reach far beyond the scope of housing. Imagine, what would a state without homelessness look like?
It would be prosperous. The standard-of-living floor would be higher for everyone. Families could afford rent and groceries with their wages and salaries. The business climate would be strong, and the state budget would be balanced. People wouldn't fear losing their homes because they were sick, disabled or elderly.
Today, we're far from this vision. But we've seen economic booms and busts before. We will bounce back from the Great Recession. In the meantime, we have no choice but to ride it out.
How we ride it out is up to us. In the public arena, we can point fingers or we can focus on solutions. We can blame each other, or we can turn our attention toward the state we all want.
It's less sensational than a constitutional amendment or viral video, but a bipartisan bonding bill that invests in affordable housing is moving through the Legislature.
And last month, the city of Minneapolis released the news that street homelessness has been reduced by 40 percent since 2010. Yes, 40 percent. This is no accident. It's the result of coordinated action by the city and county, downtown businesses, faith communities and nonprofits.
There is more than a glimmer of hope. Whether it's serving a meal, or welcoming affordable housing to the neighborhood, Minnesotans are resolving to do their part. There are local, state, and federal plans to end homelessness. Our problems — even the big ones — have solutions.
To promote those solutions, it is necessary that our leaders concentrate on reforming systems and not the people in them, and on fixing problems instead of focusing on fears. They must also be willing to give credit where it's due, whether to state or local units of government, businesses, workers, or any of the people who want to contribute to our state.
There is a lot to celebrate. We have more than enough beads to go around.