About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

Standing room only at Dakota County Homeless Forum

Monday night (January 30) Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Apple Valley hosted a conversation about homelessness in Dakota County with members of a variety of faith communities, homeless advocates, County staff, elected officials and people experiencing homelessness.  It was heartwarming and overwhelming to see 220 people show up. They were there to learn how to be part of the solution. (Get handout from the event.)

With hundreds in the room, it was a 12 year old girl who livestreamed the event via Facebook. It was a first-time experiment so the quality varies – but you can view it below. (You can also track Tweets from the event.)

The night started with Monica Nilsson, a homeless advocate and consultant, giving a brief history of recent crisis shelter operations and homelessness in Dakota County. The shelter opened during a cold snap in mid-December. It closed the day after Christmas when no temporary site was identified and reopened for another three weeks in January at Easter Lutheran Church in Eagan. In six weeks it housed 78 people. It opened because Dakota County saw the need, especially in the bitter cold weather, and offered funds for the first 4 nights. It opened because local churches were ready, willing and able to donate space, funding and resources (clothing, food, toiletries) and many volunteers. It opened because there were professional staff that were able to support the needs of the guests. And it remained open because of generous donations made by individuals through a GoFundMe campaign.

Then there was a panel of community educators, each had firsthand experience with homelessness. Sasha, Alex, Nick, Elena, Matt, Josh, James and Rick bravely told their stories. Each was well spoken, some had jobs, even while homeless; each had a unique story but there were themes. The first theme – each had just one or two incidents that put them in a vulnerable position. For one it was illness, another was injury, one was separated from her spouse, another suffered from poor and uninformed choices made by her parents. So many people just one step away from homelessness.

Another recurring theme was the difficulty in escaping homelessness. Being without shelter means carrying everything you own – always. Being without shelter means no ready access to a shower or laundry facilities. Being without shelter means you’re always thinking about a roof, warmth, food and how to get clean-even if you have a job. And people treat you differently when you appear homeless. It becomes more difficult to spend hours at the coffee shop or fast food restaurant –  managers will ask you to leave after 30 minutes of sitting.

There was an open discussion about how it felt to be homeless and what attendees could do to help keep people from being homeless and/or help them find homes. What did guests and former guests want? Human interaction and communication. Opportunity! One panelist said she had the money for an apartment but her applications were continually turned down. She just wanted an opportunity. And then there were more basic needs too – clean clothes, a gas card, Cub card…

The meeting lasted 90 minutes and the time flew. There were several policymakers in the room including, Representative Erin Maye Quade, Senator Jim Carlson, Representative Laurie Halverson, Angie Craig, County Commissioner Liz Workman and other elected officials. People left energized, asking what could they do next. The long term plan for Dakota County is a permanent shelter for men and women age 18+.

Pioneer Press spreads good news about crisis shelter extension and reports state of suburban homelessness

pioneer-pressThanks to the Pioneer Press for covering the good news at the shelter…

Monica Nilsson was in good spirits Thursday night while her guests were unwinding before bed.

Nilsson, who has been running a traveling cold-weather crisis shelter at four Dakota County churches for more than a month, had just gotten the good news that she and others were hoping for: Money was donated that will keep the operation running another week.

The shelter opened Dec. 15 at Grace Lutheran Church in Apple Valley and was set to close Friday at Easter Lutheran Church in Eagan. On Thursday, several Dakota County churches donated about $9,000 to keep it open until Jan. 27, Nilsson said.

Their story helps shine a light on suburban homeless and public awareness if half the battle; the other half is making shelter a priority in the county…

In Dakota County, the long-term goal is to have a permanent shelter for single men and women up and running by 2018 or sooner, Nilsson said.

Kastler said the county will be at the table with the faith community “to think through financing options both for the actual purchase of a building, for any renovation that is needed and for ongoing services.”

“It’s not something we have in the budget, but it’s something we as county staff feel is important,” she said. “We want to see this service extended in Dakota County.”

Nilsson said she has been encouraged by recent visits to the shelter by elected officials, including county commissioners Tom Egan and Mike Slavik; State Sen. Jim Carlson; State Rep. Erin Maye Quade; and Eagan City Council members Meg Tilley and Gary Hansen.

“When I talk with interested people I want them to have both a sense of urgency that people need help now, but also a sense of hope that people’s conditions change with connections to other people, to health care, to housing,” Nilsson said. “So the question will be: Are we going to leave things like this, or help people?”


Minneapolis Star Tribune shares story of Dakota County Crisis Shelter

Thanks to the Minneapolis Star Tribune for their story on the Crisis Shelter, recognizing the work of the participating churches, Dakota County, staff and countless volunteers…

A coalition of Dakota County churches had been meeting for over a year to discuss solutions to local homelessness. When the frigid weather prompted county officials to ask the community for immediate help, Roske-Metcalfe said, several churches stepped up.

Church staff members had never run a temporary shelter, but they got to work, calling restaurants for food donations and volunteers to provide supplies. The county donated $3,000 and covered overnight staffing. Beds came from a Minneapolis nonprofit.

And recognizing the need for awareness of the homelessness in Dakota County…

Many people still doubt homelessness exists in suburbs because they don’t see panhandlers on street corners like in the central cities. Suburban homeless often stay out of sight. The county estimated its homeless population at 63 people in January 2016, based on the number of people county workers found living outside, Nilsson said.

While building and staffing another Dakota County shelter is a far-off goal, the temporary shelter’s success was motivating, Roske-Metcalfe said: “It may turn out to be the kick in the ass that we needed.”

Monica Nilsson on homelessness in Dakota County on WCCO radio at 10:10 pm Thursday Dec 29

Update: You can hear the archive on the WCCO site or download podcast here.

Do you have a warm bed to sleep in every night?

Tonight at 10:10 Monica Nilsson will speaking with Caryn Sullivan and Jordana Green on WCCO about Dakota County residents who were housed at churches during December’s bitter cold.

Here’s a tease from the program from an upcoming Pioneer Press column (thanks Caryn Sullivan!) on the topic.

It wasn’t that there was no place at the inn. It was that there was no inn. When December wrought frightful temperatures and meteorologists warned Minnesotans to limit outdoor tie, Dakota County had virtually nothing to offer single people who needed a warm place to sleep.

Tune in to 830 WCCO! Or check out the conversation on their podcast tomorrow.

Local media visits and writes about the Dakota County Crisis Shelter

We are thankful for the media that have come to visit us at the shelter and help spread the word of need.

The Sun ran a story yesterday, here’s an excerpt…

Guests at the temporary shelter at Grace Lutheran ranged in age from infants to senior citizens.

Richard, an adult guest at Grace Lutheran last weekend, said he and a friend had been sleeping in his car in Eagan, and the cold weather combined with his car’s broken heater had made their situation desperate.

On the waiting list at the men’s homeless shelter in Hastings, Richard said he learned about the temporary site at Grace Lutheran through an Eagan police officer.

“This really saved us,” he said. “It has been phenomenal. The food — I’ve eaten more in three days than I have in three weeks. All the volunteers have been so caring.”

Fox News also came out. On their website, you can see their video debunking the misconception of suburban homelessness…

There’s a misconception that the issue only exists in Minneapolis or St. Paul, but data suggests that one-third of Minnesota’s homeless are in our suburbs.

he suburbs of Dakota County are seen as comfortable places to settle down, but even there, hundreds lack a fundamental need — a home.

“What Dakota County has been seeing is an increase of people contacting the county saying, ‘I have nowhere to sleep tonight.’” said Monica Nilsson, an advocate for the homeless.