Editorial: More needs to be done, individually, to combat homelessness

Although homelessness statistics in Minneapolis look more promising than other cities, food and housing security among students, in general, is alarming.

Daily Editorial Board

We hear it all the time: “You should be volunteering to help out your local homeless population.” We hear it in our classes, in our places of worship and in our workplace. We are given multiple opportunities to help, whether it be working at a local food drive, helping a local shelter or donating money to a national GoFundMe campaign. However, more needs to be done to combat homelessness. 

Kate McClure’s GoFundMe campaign, which GoFundMe listed as an unforgettable example of “Strangers Helping Strangers” this year, made national headlines when McClure raised $400,000 for Johnny Bobbitt, a man who spent his last $20 to fill her gas tank. 

However, instead of McClure donating all of the funds to Bobbitt, like she had originally stated she intended to do, the funds were used on radical purchases benefitting the McClure’s. Now, Bobbitt’s pro bono lawyer claims the funds have disappeared. Bobbitt’s GoFundMe is not a lone case. 

In December 2017, a GoFundMe for Keaton Jones, whose story of severe bullying touched hearts, had raised over $50,000. It later became an issue when someone pretending to be Jones’ mother tried to accept the money.

It’s too often that we see individuals take advantage of heart-tugging stories on fundraising platforms such as GoFundMe. And while these forums can provide quick solutions in individual situations, they do not hold long-term solutions to substantial issues, such as homelessness. 

The homeless population in Hennepin and Ramsey Counties falls below that of other major metropolitan areas, including Boston, New York City, San Francisco and Philadelphia. Yet, while homelessness may be less prevalent in Minneapolis than other urban areas, the City has recently seen an uptick in the number of homeless residents.

In South Minneapolis, the number of people residing in the growing homeless encampment has risen to over 120 people, and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey aims to eliminate the encampment by the end of September. Frey has also promised a “full-throated effort” from the City and social service agencies to combat the housing issues. The City is also working on long-term solutions for expanding affordable housing. 

Another substantial homelessness issue lies within our own community, as homelessness among college students is prevalent and on the rise. Temple University released a 2018 study showing that more one-third of college students lack stable housing and food security. By breaking down the numbers, we see that 36 percent reported being food insecure and an additional 36 percent reported being housing insecure. Nine percent reported being homeless.

While the K-12 education system has federal programs for students in need of resources, such as free or reduced lunch programs, there is a lack of similar programs for post-secondary students. Minnesota has taken an initial step in combating student homelessness by introducing the Housing for Homeless Students Act, introduced in Feb. 2017. However, the bill seems to have gotten lost in the bureaucratic shuffle. 

Pressure needs to be put on our representatives to ensure this bill is enacted in our state and universities need to focus on combating this overlooked issue and take action. People need to recognize that if nothing happens to combat homelessness, then we’re not doing anything important. 

To get involved, we recommend students volunteering with a multitude of student groups, including Food Justice UMN, Feed Minneapolis, Food Recovery Network and Hearts2Help.