Pope Francis home offers Catholics a learning opportunity

Categories: Editorial

Joe Towalski

Affordable housing is in short supply throughout the state

The recent announcement that Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity is building a home in St. Cloud in honor of Pope Francis is good news. By volunteering our labor and contributing financially, we local Catholics have a wonderful opportunity to collaborate on a project that is certainly in keeping with the pope’s focus on helping the poor and strengthening families.

It also offers a learning opportunity that shouldn’t be overlooked.

clip1Affordable housing is a commodity in short supply in central Minnesota and throughout the state. In the four counties of Stearns, Benton, Sherburne and Wright combined, more than 30,000 homeowners along with 13,000 renters pay more than 30 percent of their household income for housing, according to Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity.

And it’s not just an issue in the St. Cloud metro area. In Wadena County, for example, the Minnesota Housing Partnership reported in 2014 that 32 percent of homeowners and 58 percent of renters paid at least 30 percent of their household income for housing. In Mille Lacs County, it was 34 percent of owners and 50 percent of renters.

When that much of a household’s income goes into housing, families have difficulty meeting other basic needs, such as food and medical care. Navigating a path out of poverty becomes all the more challenging.

Solving the affordable housing problem will require investments and commitments from both the public and private sectors. This year, a step in the right direction includes the Homes for All initiative — supported by the Minnesota Catholic Conference and a host of other organizations — which is urging state lawmakers to invest $39 million to address a variety of urgent housing-related needs.

Other initiatives and organizations, such as Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity, also play an important role. Since its first home was constructed in St. Cloud in 1990, it has placed more than 80 families into homes of their own.

We Catholics in St. Cloud and around the diocese should take the opportunity to contribute to the building of the new home in honor of Pope Francis. But we should also use the project as an opportunity to learn more about the affordable housing problem and homelessness within our diocese and how we can be part of the solution. Pope Francis would expect nothing less.