Members of the Jackson Elementary School Student Council were strategically placed in the school’s media center during Thursday’s press conference on the release of “Heading Home: Minnesota’s Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.” Their visible presence underscored the fact that half of the 10,000 Minnesotans who are homeless every day are families with children – just like these. They were also a reminder that having stable housing is important for school success. Holding the press conference at a Promise Neighborhood School in Frogtown, also gave the message that resolving major social problems like homelessness is beyond the capacity of individuals – it requires a concerted community-wide effort.
During the course of presentations by commissioners Tingerthal and Jesson (co-chairs of the Minnesota Interagency Council on Homelessness [MICH]) and the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul, the students attentively listened and jotted down notes on their clipboards. Their attention never waned, even during the “in-the-weeds” question and answer period following the presentations. As I stood with the other commissioners who were part of MICH, I was impressed with these student leaders.
Following the event I took the opportunity to meet the Student Council Members. I shook their hands, introduced myself, and asked what they learned from the press conference. Most said that they learned a lot from the press conference and were glad that something was being done to help people find a place to live. Several knew students who were in unstable living situations. However, most admitted that they got lost in some of the details of the press conference. In response to that admission, one 4th grade girl stepped forward and said, “It’s pretty easy to understand. It’s just like the Three Little Pigs.”
The other Student Council members looked perplexed so she went on. “The pigs that lived in a straw house or a house made out of sticks were never really safe. They always had to worry about the Big Bad Wolf coming and blowing their house down. They could never sleep well or settle into their house because they always had to be ready to move. Only when they got into a house made of bricks were they really safe from the wolf and able to relax. The wolf is like all the bad things people have to face that makes it hard to live and the brick house is what these people here today are trying build for everyone."
The other students said, “That makes sense.” All I could say was, “I think you got the idea quite well.”
I left the press conference with a smile on my face, confident that our future will be in good hands.