The Foundation of Housing: Editor’s Letter and TOC

Several years ago, I interviewed Julie at Dignity House. She was connecting twice a week with an advocate there to build stability back into her life after an accident that left her with brain damage, which led to the loss of her job, which ultimately led to being unhoused.

Publisher Mikki Morrissette

It has been seven years since I talked to her, but something I remember to this day is that she told me one of the items on her wish list was to be able to afford to wear new undergarments again, instead of hand-me-downs.

As someone who has generally been steadily housed and employed, this detail about dignity is something I had never considered. It struck me how much I did not know about what Julie, and others impacted by the kinds of challenges she faced, had to navigate.

Julie told me that the advocate she worked with helped her feel someone cared and wanted to see her succeed. She rediscovered that she mattered. “I lost that for a while,” she said. “Not knowing where to turn is humiliating. I became simply another number. One of those people who needs help instead of a person.”

Two years ago, I met April Chouinard, who appreciated having a place in Saint Peter to recover from substance use. She told me she was supported by her peers at Solace after she relapsed. “To be able to stay gave me a huge sense that I am worth something — that even if I cannot love myself yet, they do,” Chouinard said. “All of a sudden you feel like somebody has your back and you matter. You are not just an addict. That grace is huge.”

More recently, I visited Peace House, where unhoused people arrive for an afternoon lunch, conversation about a question of the day, and sometimes a massage, haircut, or bike repair. The house was opened in 1985 by Sister Rose Tillemans with a mission to provide a welcoming space for people who tend to otherwise not be invited over for dinner. She wanted to offer an opportunity to share conversation for “those who had no one to listen to them.”

Thanks to 2023 bipartisan legislative work, Minnesota currently has historic financial and policy support to help solve long-simmering underinvestment in housing.

The people featured in this issue recognize that dignity, support, respect, and a sense of belonging are invaluable to the foundation that comes from housing.

We unpack statewide needs, share data, and begin to explore with advocates, government voices, and community- based innovators some of the solutions in process, even as experts — who include people with experiences of housing instability — sort out what the right next steps might be and how best to get there.

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