Local view: All of us can try to end homelessness in Duluth
Rebecca lives in a modest apartment in the Greysolon building in downtown Duluth. Like 150 other mostly elderly or disabled residents, she is happy to have a place to call home. But she has watched nervously as a favorite deli, front bench and ot...
Rebecca lives in a modest apartment in the Greysolon building in downtown Duluth. Like 150 other mostly elderly or disabled residents, she is happy to have a place to call home. But she has watched nervously as a favorite deli, front bench and other amenities slowly disappeared. Like most residents, she worries that she will eventually be pushed out of her home to make way for the unspoken plans of the building owner and city leaders to "upscale" the neighborhood.
Rebecca shared her story at a not-so-typical City Council candidate forum last week at Trepanier Hall, sponsored by CHUM, Loaves & Fishes and the American Indian Community Housing Organization. To a packed house, five Duluthians living in poverty told their stories to six Duluth City Council candidates. More than 100 people listened attentively with occasional applause for the storytellers.
It was an astounding turnout for a City Council candidate forum -- but not a surprise. One in four Duluthians lives below the federal poverty line. Record numbers of Duluth's children are homeless or transient. An affordable-housing crisis forces many people to live in slum conditions at high rent. And low wages prevent even full-time workers from keeping up with their families' bills. Poverty belongs at the top of our city's agenda.
The good news is the candidates, across the political spectrum, agreed. And they didn't just agree to wring their hands; they agreed to take action. Specifically, with a few caveats to further research the issues, the candidates agreed to:
Proactively engage communities of color and work to create a more-welcoming employment environment. There is no easy solution to poverty, but we with the Loaves and Fishes Community of Duluth are convinced the answers can be found in the experience and wisdom of those Duluthians who live day to day in its grip. Duluth cannot rely on trickle-down economics, hoping young professionals and upscale housing developments deliver enough crumbs to the tables of the poor. Our solutions need to lift everyone up, starting with those who are having the hardest time getting by in our economy.
We are grateful to the candidates for taking part in the forum, and we were heartened by their answers. It is up to all of us to hold those elected accountable and to work with them to build a Duluth where everyone has a home, a sense of security, food on the table and a voice in the decisions that affect their lives.
Joel Kilgour is a member of the Loaves and Fishes Community in Duluth.