Displacing the Displaced

Katy DanielsFeatured, Mission Weekly

Metro Transit Decision on Green Line Leaves Fewer Options for People Experiencing Homelessness.

All people are deserving of shelter that is suitable for human habitation. That means access to a warm bed, running water, restroom facilities, showers, and storage for belongings. The Twin Cities has several shelters for people experiencing homelessness, most of which are clustered in the downtown areas of Minneapolis and St. Paul (see below for a list of emergency shelters), and Missions Inc. and other local organizations offer transitional housing for people who would otherwise be homeless. But traditional shelters are not always an option for some people experiencing homelessness, largely due to mental health and substance abuse issues; and there is a lack of available shelter for people with pets, couples, and families with children.

A bedroom at Missions Inc. Programs provides a comfortable respite for
survivors of domestic violence to find safety, healing, and hope.

When the city’s shelters are not an option, many people turn to places that are unfit for human habitation. One of those places is the Metro Transit’s Light Rail system (LRT), which operates two lines in the Twin Cities Metro area. “During cold snaps last winter, the Green and Blue light-rail lines served as the second-largest homeless shelter in Hennepin County, according to one police report.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune. “’Transit is not a shelter’: Green Line curtails all-night service” found here):

Support for low-barrier shelters and transitional living and housing programs is necessary if we are going to change the landscape for homeless families in America.

The light rail system has increasingly become a place where people experiencing homelessness can go to cool down on hot days, and stay warm and safe during cold weather. Because the system runs 24 hours/day, on any given night, dozens of people use the light rail line for overnight shelter.

But a recent decision by Metro Transit to shut down the Green Line (operating between the downtown areas of Minneapolis and St. Paul) from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. to perform nightly maintenance will effectively displace dozens of people who use the light rail trains for shelter. And, advocates are worried about where those people will go.

Missions Inc. agrees with St. Stephen’s Human Services, which addressed the issue in a recent Facebook post by pointing out:

“The problem isn’t that the people have been sheltering on trains. The problem is that people don’t have anywhere else to go. If people aren’t on the trains overnight, they will be somewhere else. It’s up to all of us (and our dollars) to decide whether that looks like:

1. Deeply affordable housing, shelter that is low-barrier and culturally-specific, and robust social services to help people navigate that continuum
2. People being displaced to somewhere else unfit for human habitation

We have the power to decide what we want for our neighbors and for our community.”

Missions Inc. is an active member of local coalitions engaging in advocacy efforts with Metro Transit (the Metropolitan Council) and the State Legislature to increase options for people experiencing homelessness, and to address the particular problems of the lack of low-barrier shelter. Please join us as we advocate for greater options for displaced people by visiting the websites below and contacting your local and state legislators. Also, please watch this space for future calls to action as the State Legislature reconvenes in February 2020.

Find out who your representatives are here

Contact the Metropolitan Council here

Advocacy Groups

Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless

Minnesota Urban Indian Directors

Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center  

Emergency Shelter

St. Stephen’s Human Services

Simpson Housing

People Serving People

Higher Ground St. Paul Shelter

For more information about Missions Inc. services to persons experiencing homelessness and chemical addiction or domestic violence, please visit our website, or call 763.559.1883

Katy Daniels is the Associate Director for Missions Inc. Programs

Featured Image Courtesy: Tim Nelson | MPR News 2016