Fight back.

tarbox-christiaan“When you talk about the mental health problems, when people come back from war and combat, they see things that maybe a lot of folks in this room have seen many times over. And you’re strong and you can handle it, but a lot of people can’t handle it. – Virginia campaign stop, Oct. 3, 2016

According to a study released by Wilder Research in November 2016, six out of 10 homeless Minnesota veterans have lacked stable housing for a year or more. The same study noted that 62 percent of homeless veterans in the state suffer from mental illness, 31 percent struggle with substance abuse, and that over one-third of homeless military veterans from Minnesota more than likely have some sort of brain injury.

There are a number of organizations in Minnesota and the metro area that specifically work in assisting in the alleviation of veteran homelessness, as well as assisting vets suffering from PTSD and substance abuse. Disabled American Veterans of Minnesota is dedicated to giving back to disabled servicemembers in the state, with chapters in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Anoka, among others. Those interested in helping can make monetary donations, donate clothing and household items, or volunteer their time at VA medical centers or providing transportation. More information can be found at davmn.org.

The Minnesota Military Family Foundation was created by Golden Valley business owner Bill Popp. It distributes money through grants to military families in need. Check out minnesotamilitaryfamilyfoundation.org.
Additionally, the Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs oversees the Minneapolis Veterans Home, which provides shelter and a variety of medical and rehabilitation services for veterans. Contributions can be made in the form of monetary funds or material goods by inquiring at 612-548-5993.

“You have people come in and I’m not just saying Mexicans, I’m talking about people that are from all over, that are killers and rapists and they’re coming to this country. – CNN, June 28, 2015

According to Minnesota Compass, approximately 428,000 Minnesota residents are foreign-born, including refugees fleeing conflict in their home nations. Furthermore, one in six children in the state has at least one immigrant parent. Some 80 percent of Minnesota’s foreign-born residents live in the seven-county metro area. An ABC News report mentions the extreme difficulty for immigrants to attain American citizenship, with most immigration lawyers charging between $5,000 and $7,500 to help a client get a green card alone. The wait for a green card, let alone citizenship itself, can take years.

Minnesota boasts a high number of immigrant families, hailing from Mexico and Laos to Somalia and Korea. There are many metro-based organizations seeking to help immigrants with finding work, educational equity, asylum and legal aid, such as the Brooklyn Park-based African Immigrant Services (aisfotl.org), Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid in Minneapolis (mylegalaid.org), The Advocates for Human Rights (theadvocatesforhumanrights.org), and the Minnesota Council of Churches’ Refugee Services (mnchurches.org/refugeeservices). All of these groups and more accept donations and volunteer time.

“My entire life, I’ve watched politicians bragging about how poor they are, how they came from nothing, how poor their parents and grandparents were. And I said to myself, if they can stay so poor for so many generations, maybe this isn’t the kind of person we want to be electing to higher office… How smart can they be? They’re morons. – The New York Times, Nov. 28, 1999

Poverty and homelessness rates in Minnesota sit at understandably worrisome levels to this day. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 12 percent of all Minnesotans of all ages lived in poverty in 2014, while 15 percent of children under 18 lived in poverty the same year. The department notes that African-Americans and Native Americans suffer from poverty at higher rates than any other ethnic group in Minnesota, with the former at 36.5 percent and the latter at 36 percent. Hennepin County in particular has 12.9 percent of its residents living in poverty, compared to 11.5 percent of Minnesota as a whole.

Luckily, there’s no shortage of food shelters, homeless shelters or anti-poverty nonprofits willing to make a difference in Minnesota. Brooklyn Park’s Avenues for Homeless Youth (avenuesforyouth.org) offers emergency shelters and host home programs for vulnerable young people in the surrounding communities. Hopkins’ MoveFWD (movefwdmn.org) offers counseling, housing programs and case management for youth and their families. Loaves and Fishes (loavesandfishesmn.org) is a nonprofit that serves hot meals to underserved communities in the seven-county metro area. And Minneapolis’ People Serving People (peopleservingpeople.org), which I have had the genuine pleasure of volunteering for as a meal server, is the largest family-focused homeless shelter in the region. These organizations are in need of donations and volunteer work.

“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it, you can do anything… Grab them by the (expletive). You can do anything. – “Access Hollywood” recording, September 2005

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Minnesota courts adjudicated 27,288 cases of domestic violence, while one in three homeless women in the state are homeless due to domestic violence. Meanwhile, a 2015 report by Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women noted that 34 Minnesotans were murdered by way of domestic violence in 2015.

There are a number of nonprofits and specialized organizations in the metro area that combat domestic violence and help those affected by it. Minneapolis’ Domestic Abuse Project (domesticabuseproject.com) provides counseling for men, women and children victimized by domestic abuse, while advocating for survivors in the legal and political realms. Missions, Inc. (missionsinc.org) operates in St. Paul and Plymouth, likewise providing shelter and support to those affected by abuse and violence. Cornerstone (cornerstonemn.org) — which is headquartered in Minneapolis, Brooklyn Center and Bloomington ­— provides emergency housing and crisis counseling for ten cities in Hennepin County. All of these organizations and more accept donations and volunteers to further their mission statements.

Fight hate with love. Counter ignorance with compassion. Defeat suffering with kindness. Our stunning capacity for helping our brothers and sisters in need transcends any barrier of nationality, race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. If we’re all in this for the long haul, then we can do this together.

Contact Christiaan Tarbox at [email protected]