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Advocacy

Lobbying is an important part of advocating for issues that impact our community. When you lobby a government official, you are attempting to influence decisions they make that affect you, your neighbors, our community, our state, or our country. 

Affordable Housing Conversations

We are engaging in a community conversation about how we can address Duluth's housing crisis. It is clear that many issues surrounding this topic have yet to be resolved. 

Join us on May 23, 5:00 PM at Peace Church (1111 N 11th Ave E. Duluth, MN. We will be digging into these topics, and hearing from people who are directly impacted by this crisis and their struggle to find housing.

There is an opportunity for $3.9 million in pandemic relief funds to be used to solve some of these issues. Join us in conversation, make your voice heard, and let's make Duluth a more just and compassionate community.

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Local Discussion: Affordable Housing and Economic Development

Duluth is facing many challenges, including housing vacancy and affordability which has a disproportionate impact on low- and moderate-income households. More than half of Duluthians who rent are paying more than they can afford for housing, which impacts the capacity of businesses to attract employees to the community. Housing availability and affordability are directly related to economic development.

 

A Neilsberg Research analysis of US Census data compared Duluth to MN cities with populations exceeding 50,000 residents. Duluth ranks 18th out of 19 for median household income, falling almost to the bottom in household income range among all large MN cities.

It’s no surprise then that a recent study by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies indicates nearly 1 in 3 Duluth renters are severely cost-burdened, spending more than 50% of their income on housing costs. Using data compiled by the Census and the American Community Survey, 32.2% of Duluthians are spending 50% of their income on housing, and 50.5% of renters are cost-burdened by spending 30-50% of their income on housing.

“According to the study, average rent sat at $950 a month, while the average renter household’s income was just above $27,800. Sumair Sheikh, executive director of LISC pointed to an example of someone who said a 250-square-foot studio which they had rented for $425 in 2017 is now going for $950 in 2024.”

 

John Cole points to the analysis of affordable housing in 2019 by Maxfield Research, which identified a need of 3,500 additional units in affordable multi-family housing. (To see the full study, visit https://duluthmn.gov/media/9677/city-of-duluth_update-of-aff_workforce-hsg-need-final.pdf). Housing units being constructed are primarily at market rate prices and therefore cater mostly to professionals who have found above median income employment in our city.

 

Even so, our health care employers, St. Luke's and Essentia Health, continue to discuss the need for affordable and workforce housing to support their expanding employment bases. The need for housing to serve low- and moderate-income households remains strong, particularly for those taking lower wage jobs in sectors with growing employment opportunities.

 

At Chum, 41% of those on the wait list for subsidized housing have been there for more than two years. There are simply not enough housing units available, and the number of people living unhoused continues to rise. St. Louis County reports a 41% rise in overall homelessness and 157% rise in chronic homelessness in the ten years from 2013 – 2023.

Duluth community leaders are struggling with funding allocation decisions that involve economic development and affordable housing. The City Council has previously allocated funds to the HRA of Duluth, and our City Administration has asked them to reallocate some of the same funds to economic development. Councilors are split on this issue, which will come up for a vote again at their May meeting.

 

Please visit https://www.chumduluth.org/advocacy and click on the “Advocate for Better Housing Today” button for more information and how you can influence housing in Duluth.

If you would like to see more like this, please join Chum’s Advocacy Team to receive updates and action alerts! Sign up here: https://www.tfaforms.com/5119818

2024 Advocacy Priorities

At the local level we will promote education and advocacy for the needs of Chum - our priorities this year are:
• Shelter Expansion funding, 
• funding for the development of a triage housing project, and 
• support for people experiencing mental health and substance use challenges.
We always partner with MCH (Minnesota Coalitions for the Homelessness) and JRLC (Joint Religious Legislative Coalition) on advocacy efforts. These organizations generally align with Chum and can help us expand our reach at the State level. 

MCH priorities for 2024 are:
• Capital funding for shelters 
• Capital funding for transitional housing

• MCH is also endorsing the constitutional amendment for housing. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure the state is making the ongoing investments required to truly address our current housing crisis.
The constitutional amendment for housing will create a:
• Homeownership Opportunity Fund
• Rental Opportunity Fund (including a minimum investment of $100 million annually in universal rental assistance/Bring it Home, MN)
• Household & Community Stability Fund.


The funds are broad and flexible, able to accommodate innovative new concepts as well as existing programs, funds, and financing. A council of up to 24 people will be appointed for each fund to make budget and policy recommendations to the Governor and Legislature, with seats reserved for those with lived experience and frontline and grassroots organizations, among others.


DRAFT ballot language: A constitutional amendment for housing:
Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to remove barriers to homeownership, to make our rental housing safe and affordable, and to protect our vulnerable households and communities from displacement and homelessness by increasing the sales and use tax rate beginning July 1, 2025, by three-eighths of one percent on taxable sales until the year 2050?

 

JRLC   - in discussions with JRLC, they have adapted their draft priorities for 2024 to address issues important to Chum, particularly concerning mental health services, by partnering with NAMI. 
JRLC priorities include:
• Funding for Additional In-Patient Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Beds– JRLC in Coalition with the NAMI, Chum
• Funding Early Intervention Treatment Facilities For People with Schizophrenia- JRLC in Coalition with NAMI
Early intervention is especially important in slowing the progression of schizophrenia and helping people manage their illness. 
The average time it takes someone to get treatment is 74 wks after their first psychotic episode. At this point, the illness has often progressed to the point where the individual cannot maintain a stable living situation/attend school/manage a job. Dedicated, Long-term Housing for People with Severe Mental Illness– JRLC in Coalition with NAMI

• Emergency Shelter and Transitional Housing– JRLC in Coalition with the MN Coalition for the Homeless, Chum.

Policies We Advocated For

How To Lobby Elected Officials

You can write a letter, schedule a visit, make a phone call, or send an email!

What to say and how to say it effectively: 

  1. Set your goals- one or two issues are a better way to go so your issues stand out and your intent is clear. What do you want to get out of your visit, email, or phone call? Are you asking them to support legislation, commit to a vote on your issue, or educate them on a specific topic?
     

  2. Listen to learn- listening is one of the most important things to do while lobbying. It’s your opportunity to learn more about the elected official’s thoughts on your issue, where they stand, and opportunities to provide more information on your topic. 
     

  3. Be prepared, but not an expert- Read up on your issue and be well prepared, but don’t feel like you need to be an expert in the field in order to talk to your elected official. It’s okay if you don’t know an answer to their question because this is a great opportunity to learn more and follow up with them once you know more. 
     

  4. Keep it short- try to keep your message short and concise. Elected officials want to hear from their constituents, but they also run on a tight schedule. Whether you like what you hear, or are disappointed in their response it’s okay to let them know, but be respectful. Always thank them for their time and leave room for further discussion if needed. 
     

  5. Build Rapport- express your appreciation to elected officials when they support your issues, but there may be a time when they don’t support an issue that you think they should. Even if they don’t support your position, your visit or communication on the issue could be enough to prevent them from being active opponents. 
     

  6. Share a personal story- Sharing a personal story about how your issue personally affects you can be powerful. Explaining why the issue is important to you through a story is a great way to make your issue real and relatable for your elected official.

Link to finding your legislator:

https://www.gis.leg.mn/iMaps/districts/

Map of districts, legislators or city councilors, and their contact info

Where is your congregation? List of congregations under each district

Chum’s local-level priorities include an increase in shelter capacity, construction and preservation of affordable housing, healthcare, and educational equity, and identifying actions to dismantle structural racism in Duluth.

 

We need Shelter Capital to expand shelter and staffing capacity

In Duluth, there are 155 shelter beds (with all shelters usually at or above capacity). In addition, there are about 600 people utilizing the Warming Center or living in places unfit for human habitation. 

We need funding for Stepping On Up

Stepping On Up will change the response to homelessness in Duluth and move people from being unsheltered to living in our Shelter-Next facilities

We need funding for Affordable Housing

The shelter will always be necessary as an emergency response to a crisis resulting in homelessness, but it should be a short-term, one-time stay that leads to stable and affordable housing. 

2023 Policy Outcomes

We made some big waves this last legislative session. Minnesota lawmakers moved forward and spent more than we ever have on housing. Read more about all the things we accomplished and where we are heading!

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Policies We Advocated For in 2023

Chum’s local-level priorities include an increase in shelter capacity, construction and preservation of affordable housing, healthcare and educational equity, and identifying actions to dismantle structural racism in Duluth.

 

Shelter Capital to expand shelter and staffing capacity

 

In Duluth, there are 155 shelter beds (with all shelters usually at or above capacity). In addition, there are about 600 people utilizing the Warming Center or living in places unfit for human habitation. 

Chum provides a low-barrier shelter for persons who encounter access issues with other shelter models.  A low-barrier shelter does not require individuals to be sober during their stay. Likewise, there are people who encounter issues with the low-barrier model.  We need more shelter beds to provide access for those currently unable to utilize the low-barrier shelter.

 

Ask our legislators to support the Pathway Home Act (HF444 & SF388) which provides:

  • $150 million for Shelter Capital in one-time funding

  • $40 million in 2024/25 and $70 million in 2026/27 for Emergency Services Program grants

If passed, we can use these funds to expand short-term shelter capacity, and acquire or construct innovative transitional and long-term housing for unsheltered people working to build more stable lives.

Funding for Stepping On Up

 

Stepping On Up will change the response to homelessness in Duluth and move people from being unsheltered to living in our Shelter-Next facilities (four of them, each sheltering 25 persons, providing access to needed stabilization services, and allowing barriers to be addressed); and then into ultra-affordable housing (200 of them) where they can build a community that can make stability, employment, and self-sufficiency possible.  

 

Ask our legislators to support the Pathway Home Act (HF444 & SF388) which provides:

 

  • $150 million for Shelter Capital in one-time funding (Phase II)

  • $40 million in 2024/25 and $70 million in 2026/27 for Emergency Services Program grants (Phases I – III)

  • $25 million in 2024/25 and $40 million in 2026/27 for Homeless Youth Act grants

  • $9 million for Transitional Housing Programs (Phase III)

 

If passed, we can use these funds to:

  • Create Shelter-Next housing for people following their release from treatment, corrections, or chronic homelessness. (Phase II)

  • Provide training opportunities for people experiencing barriers so they can have stability and independence, and attain employment and self-sufficiency. (Phase III)

​Funding for Affordable Housing

 

The shelter will always be necessary as an emergency response to a crisis resulting in homelessness, but it should be a short-term, one-time stay that leads to stable and affordable housing.  There is a big need for affordable units where those working at minimum wage can rent using no more than 30% of their monthly income.  People working in the community should be able to live near their place of employment. Duluth needs 3800 affordable housing units by 2029 (2020 Mayor’s Housing Task Force Report)

 

Ask our legislators to support the Pathway Home Act (HF444 & SF388) which provides

 

  • $750 million one-time investment in homes to address the full continuum of housing needs and ensure homes for all.

2023 Policy Outcomes

In 2023 Minnesotans invested $2.1 billion toward housing and homelessness. Issues addressed include Chum's priorities: the expansion and preservation of shelter spaces, funding that supports shelter operations, outreach, and other key resources and services to support families, individuals, and seniors experiencing homelessness.

 

Chum has applied for funding from the Minnesota one-time investment of $100M in shelter capital. The Emergency Services Program had a base funding availability of $1.68M statewide, and Chum received a portion of funding for staff from this fund. The 2023 Legislature made the following changes, which, if our application is funded, will enable us to hire staff to go with the shelter expansion.

  • 2024/25 ESP base funding available is $43.68M

  • 2026/27 ESP base funding available is $68.68M

  • 2028/29 ESP base funding available is $73.68M

 

Thanks to the advocates in the Chum group of congregations who partnered with us on these efforts. We work in coalition with many other organizations and congregations throughout the state through both the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless and the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition. Together, we successfully advocated for policies that will have a significant impact on making Duluth a more just and compassionate community, and Minnesotans all over the state will benefit from our labors.

Please Consider Supporting Chum

There are many ways to support us! A gift of money can help us support all of our programs. A gift of time, through volunteering, can help us complete crucial projects. And donations of warmth, clothing, and shelter help keep folks living outside of shelter alive.

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