On June 7, Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis will open Higher Ground, a signature project to end homelessness that will provide shelter and homes to 336 people. Higher Ground also will provide an environment that upholds the dignity of each person, thanks to the state and a community coming together on a bipartisan basis to better the lives of those most in need.
In 1996, in response to a "temporary increase" in homelessness, Catholic Charities worked with Hennepin County and the city of Minneapolis to shelter people experiencing homelessness at Secure Waiting on Curie Avenue in a building that was never meant to house people. Secure Waiting provides mats, meals and, for a lucky few, a simple bunk in cramped space that increasingly made us cringe. It also became clear that the "temporary increase" was growing into a permanent challenge.
At Higher Ground, which will replace Secure Waiting, there will continue to be meals, and bunk beds in a comfortable setting, and mats only in emergencies. More important, there will also be paths to permanent homes and jobs. In short, opportunity will replace despair.
Higher Ground demonstrates that progress is possible. Catholic Charities was able to build Higher Ground because several years ago political leaders from both parties put partisanship aside to achieve common ground -- and business leaders recognized that tackling poverty and homelessness provides a competitive advantage for our community.
We also know that more progress is necessary in the aftermath of the Great Recession. And there is hope. The 2012 Legislature approved $37.5 million for critical affordable housing throughout the state.
There is much, much more to be done. But what we have achieved with Higher Ground should provide the entire community with the confidence that ending homelessness and solving poverty is not a dream that must forever be deferred.
TIM MARX AND Mary Tingerthal
Marx is CEO of Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Tingerthal is commissioner of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency.