Lt. Gov. Flanagan discusses impacts of $1 billion housing budget
Housing experts explained the importance of culturally appropriate housing and wraparound services at shelters during a roundtable discussion Thursday in Duluth.
DULUTH — Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and Housing Commissioner Jennifer Ho spoke with Duluth area housing directors Thursday about investments in supportive and culturally appropriate housing as part of a proposed $1 billion budget for housing and homelessness.
Flanagan said across the state, the three biggest needs raised by communities are housing, child care and public safety. With the significant budget surplus seen this year, she said there is no reason not to invest in the critical need for housing and shelters for people experiencing homelessness.
“Literally the greatest pleasure of my life has been putting together this budget,” Flanagan said at the American Indian Community Housing Organization on Thursday. “We know what works, we simply need to invest in it and that is why we are here today.”
AICHO co-executive directors Michelle LeBeau and LeAnn Littlewolf shared with the roundtable discussion group the importance of culturally relevant services and spaces, which includes having Indigenous staff at supportive housing shelters, and providing welcoming community spaces that showcase and support cultural traditions.
“We have so many people who are working, and we have so many families that have been reunited,” LeBeau said. “I really believe that the difference is the cultural services. When they look at their case manager, they know where their case manager comes from. They see themselves in their case manager and their case manager understands where they are coming from and understands their history.”
Littlewolf said many people who come to shelters, especially children, have experienced violence and trauma that can be healed through immersion in Indigenous culture.
Khayman Goodsky, who identifies as Two Spirit, said many Indigenous people have not been as lucky as she has to receive support from relatives in their gender identities and sexualities. Goodsky, who is a program director for AICHO and Lutheran Social Services, said many shelters have homophobic and transphobic people that the LGBTQ and Two Spirit youth do not feel comfortable being around.
She said many Indigenous LGBTQ youth instead sleep on the streets or Lakewalk, where they are often victims of assault and are exposed to substance use. Goodsky also expressed concerns about transgender youth receiving illegal hormone therapy on the streets.
“When they come (to the Center for Changing Lives transitional youth housing), they usually say, ‘Khayman, you are the first queer Indigenous person who’s an adult that isn’t addicted or homeless,’” Goodsky said. “This community needs to step up.”
Life House Executive Director Jordon Johnson said he agrees that Duluth needs more LGBTQ-specific housing services, especially for youth. He said there is a lot of compounded trauma in youth who have minority identities, including race, gender and sexuality. In addition, Johnson said 53% of youth at Life House have experienced abuse of some kind.
Flanagan said she will take the stories and feedback she gathered at the roundtable discussion back to St. Paul, where she will work to convince the Legislature to make the investments possible.
“We know that our communities have been disproportionately impacted by COVID. The people who have been impacted in this moment deserve that investment,” Flanagan said. “We are making up for generations of lack of investment in communities who have been traditionally underresourced, so this is literally the least we can do.”
Commissioner Ho shared a breakdown of the proposed Walz-Flanagan Budget allocation, which includes more than $1 billion in proposed spending over the next three fiscal years as part of the housing stability package. The state's projected budget surplus will be over $9 billion.
The Move Minnesota Forward housing investment proposes over $719 million, including:
- $42 million to strengthen supportive housing for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
- An increase of $38.5 million for homelessness prevention.
- $30 million for prenatal to pre-K housing assistance for homeless or highly mobile young children.
- $100 million to preserve and improve existing affordable housing.
In addition, there is a proposed $115 million in emergency services programs and $17 million in capital for investment in shelters, Ho said, because they did not want shelters to compete with housing dollars.