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Do the Vikings need public funds for a new home here in Minnesota? I can’t help but wonder how we can entertain this idea while failing to provide a home for more and more of our neighbors.
One of the marked features of the recession of 2008 has been the dramatic foreclosure rate among middle- and low-income families. In Minnesota since 2007, more than 100,000 homes have been foreclosed on, and as late as July 2011, the foreclosure rate was still at record levels. In this tough economy families are still losing their homes and the rate of homelessness in our state is on the rise.
The 2009 Wilder Survey counted 9,654 homeless people in Minnesota on the night of Oct. 22, 2009. This includes 3,251 children with their parents, 227 unaccompanied youth under 18, and 1,041 young adults ages 18-21. On any given night the Wilder Survey estimates that 13,100 Minnesotans are homeless. Over the course of one year, it estimates that 46,600 Minnesotans experience homelessness at least once.
If these numbers don't paint a clear picture, consider this: our colleagues at Catholic Charities tell us the overflow of homeless people at the Dorothy Day Center and other shelters is unprecedented.
Are we okay with zero housing for thousands of people? Have we given up on the much vaunted Business Plan to End Homelessness? This past session our legislature struggled mightily to find resources needed to close a $5 billion budget deficit. In the end, the final compromise included cuts in services for low-income, vulnerable, and disabled people because we had "no money." Early signs are pointing to a November forecast that will again show budget shortfalls.
Now there's talk of calling a special legislative session so the state can spend $300 million to build a home for a privately owned football franchise — just six months after our lawmakers refused to find funds for programs supporting children and families living in poverty who surely need housing assistance more desperately than the Vikings.
I know that many will say that there is not a direct connection between funding a stadium and funding other programs, but if we have the political will to scrounge resources for the Vikings, why didn't we do that for our most vulnerable fellow human beings?
Are we ready to name the NFL as the true religion of our state? And, to be proper adherents, must we raise $300 million to build a worthy Vikings temple while thousands wait for a simple cot?