Grand Rapids event adds voice to homelessness images

People tend to think of social problems being concentrated in the cities because population density forces people to see them. In rural areas and the small towns of northern Minnesota, the problems exist in similar proportion: just often outside the view of most people, most of the time. This is how so many people here in northern Minnesota continue to make the assumption that homelessness isn’t an issue here.

Elana Warsen, a columnist in the Grand Rapids Herald-Review addressed the topic of Itasca County homelessness in her Sunday piece:

There is misalignment between the cost of housing and what local families can afford to pay. According to the Minnesota Housing Partnership’s 2013 report, a “safe, modest 2-bedroom apartment” in Itasca County costs on average $747 per month. At that rate, the cost of rent is out of reach for a family with the median renter household income of $21,078. Only by working 79 hours a week, would a minimum wage earner manage to afford the $747 per month rent. The report suggests that a more affordable monthly rent for families in this income bracket would be $527. Such affordable housing options exist, but are limited in comparison to the high number of families who need them.

Warsen goes on to explain that poverty alone doesn’t account for the endemic problem of addiction and mental illness that leads to homelessness for many Minnesotans.

On Thursday, a leading expert on homelessness will give a presentation at the MacRostie Art Center in downtown Grand Rapids, Minnesota, amid the haunting images of the photography exhibit “Homeless is my address, not my name.”

From the MacRostie Art Center:

Cathy ten Broeke

Cathy ten Broeke

One of the nation’s leading authorities on homelessness will speak in Grand Rapids on Thursday, March 27, at 7 p.m. at MacRostie Art Center, 405 N.W. 1st Ave. Cathy ten Broeke, State of Minnesota Director to Prevent and End Homelessness, oversees the state’s response to homelessness by working with multiple agencies, community partners, and private stakeholders to create a statewide partnership to end homelessness.

Her visit to Grand Rapids is sponsored by the Grand Rapids Human Rights Commission, Grace House, and MacRostie Art Center and is being held in conjunction with the month long photography exhibit, “Homeless is my address, not my name,” at the art center. The public is cordially invited to attend her free presentation and to view the exhibit. Refreshments will follow.

In her role as state director, ten Broeke brings 20 years of experience working on homelessness in both the non-profit and government sectors. Prior to her current position, ten Broeke was Director of the Minneapolis/Hennepin County Office to End Homelessness and served as a Special Advisor to the Executive Director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. She has a Master’s degree in Public Affairs from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute.

In December, the Minnesota Interagency Council on Homelessness adopted and released the new statewide plan to prevent and end homelessness for men, women, children, and youth. ten Broeke will talk about this new effort and what gives her hope that this may be the best opportunity in many years to see significant positive changes for people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness.

Created by St. Stephen’s Human Services of Minneapolis, in partnership with Heading Home Minnesota and its regional partners and the Family Housing Fund, the exhibit at MacRostie Art Center shows 50 photographs of people who have been homeless in Minnesota. The interactive exhibit allows viewers to call in on a cell phone to hear the person in the portrait tell his or her own story. ten Broeke is one of the photographers featured in the touring exhibit.

For more information on the exhibit or ten Broeke’s presentation, contact MacRostie Art Center, 218-326-2697.

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