By Tony Webster from Portland, Oregon (Minneapolis Homeless Memorial March) [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

August 24, 2018; Star Tribune

Thanks to Minneapolis city officials and American Indian leaders, there is hope for a growing homeless encampment in Minnesota.

According to the Star Tribune, Mayor Jacob Frey recently announced that local service agencies will have a special focus on helping the rapidly expanding tent city between Hiawatha and Cedar Avenues. The deadline to eliminate the encampment is end of September. The rise in homelessness has been tied to a decrease in affordable housing and an inability for local homeless shelters to keep up with the growing demand.

“Housing is a right, and the city has an obligation to step up and we are stepping up,” Frey said at a news conference at the American Indian Center in Minneapolis. “We will be working to ensure that those present at the encampment receive every service they need.”

Star Tribune noted that the homeless camp is made up in the greatest part by American Indians and has doubled in size over the past two weeks. The camp is battling infections like MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection) and hepatitis, and some are concerned for the safety and well-being of single women.

It is important here to note the work of local nonprofits. The American Indian Community Development Corporation will be providing hygienic service areas that will include toilets and showers. Star Tribune noted that AICDC hopes that by operating these hygiene areas, it will build relationships and help the people there learn how to access services such as supported housing and chemical dependency treatment.

As homelessness continues to rise across the nation, creative solutions for affordable housing are key. NPQ has noted how repurposing malls has been in the conversation. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is also looking into California’s issues with affordability.

As the housing and homelessness crisis continues to impact cities across the nation, it will be interesting to see how nonprofits shift strategy and seek out innovative solutions, especially when homelessness impacts people of color at higher rates. The solutions proposed for the encampment (especially working with local American Indian leaders) in Minneapolis showcase the need for nonprofits and government to understand intersectionality, which Merriam-Webster defines as “the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups.”

Whether the topic is homelessness, poverty, disparate health outcomes, or lack of representation in various job sectors, there’s no surprise that marginalized groups always come out behind. Racism, sexism, and classism have all impacted outcomes in career, housing access, and health. Solutions for fixing those disparities need to address the overlapping causes and involve representation from those most affected. Nonprofit decision-makers need to take the time to understand how historical and modern injustices have resulted in the issues we see today.

By understanding the complex and interwoven systems of oppression in society, and the complex and interwoven identities that we all have, we can better tackle the problems of our community. The more nonprofits (of all scope of services) and government see how disparities are all related, we can move beyond Band-Aids over symptoms and address the deeply rooted injustices impacted marginalized groups.—Kelly Phipps