The Wilder Foundation held Under the Big Tent, Wilder Chautauqua on Homelessness, on Wednesday, October 23rd. Using a Chautauqua, popular community assemblies dating back to the 1870's, performers entertained while they educated a crowd of 200. A performance of "There's No Place Like Home," featuring St. Steven's Human Services' zAmya Theater Project, and special musical guest, Charlie Maguire helped set the mood.
Monica Nilsson, Director of Community Engagement at St Stephen's Human Services said, "We have learned that the community can engage on the topic of homelessness through stories of hope and resilience. Humor is a survival tool for all of us and our production of "There's No Place Like Home," teaches about homelessness while it entertains.
The third and final event in a series of 2013 Wilder educational and community conversations combined spoken word, music, storytelling, Wilder Research findings, and powerful performances to inspire and engage.
Greg Owen, Wilder's research project director, presented data calling attention to the devastating effect of homelessness on youth. Results of their 2012 survey indicate that nearly half (46%) of the homeless in Minnesota are age 21 and younger, of which 3,546 were children with their parents. The study counted 1,151 youth on their own, including 146 youth age 17 and younger and 1,005 age 18 through 21.
Guest Speaker, Representative Rena Moran (65A, St. Paul) experienced homelessness as a young mother with six children. "Years ago I was homeless. I was in a shelter for four months. I just want us all to see value in each and every person and don't judge people's value by their current circumstances." Closing remarks by MayKao Y. Hang, Wilder President and Chief Executive Officer summed up the energy of a powerful evening. "Before the age of 12, I was homeless three times. I think to myself, 'why don't people get it?' People experiencing homelessness are not so different from us."