What the Super Bowl Means for the Homeless

Written by Kim Kemppainen

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The cameras have been shut off, the fans have left, and Minneapolis is no longer the most popular city in the world. Now that the Super Bowl is over, it’s time to return to reality, and for too many people, that means returning to the streets. Those of you who went downtown this week might have noticed that there were very few people holding signs requesting money or food. But why was that? Especially on a week when hundreds of thousands of visitors would be walking the streets of Minneapolis. What happened to the homeless population?

 

Evidently, their disappearance is not merely a coincidence. For the past week and a half the  homeless have been encouraged to take refuge at one of the many additional resources available to them during Super Bowl week. Churches and public centers all across Minneapolis opened their doors, extended their hours, and served additional meals to the homeless as an effort to keep these people off the streets. This phenomenon is not unique to Minneapolis. It happens every year in the city hosting the Super Bowl and goes largely unnoticed because the homeless population is suddenly invisible.

 

Although the city of Minneapolis insists that extra support for the homeless was not a thinly veiled attempt at hiding the problem, skeptics are unsure. Homeless advocates argue that these additional resources for the homeless population were nothing more than an attempt to create the illusion that homelessness doesn’t exist in Minneapolis. And they have some merit to their claims. Additional law enforcement officers and Super Bowl volunteers were trained specifically to encourage the homeless lining the streets and skyways to take advantage of these resources.

 

These programs undoubtedly seem helpful, but the question we should be asking is what happens to these people when the Super Bowl ends? The answer to that question is not quite as heartwarming as all of those Super Bowl car commercials. As warming shelters return to normal hours and churches stop serving extra meals, the homeless are forced back onto the frigid streets. Did the additional food donations and warming shelters help this vulnerable group? Without a doubt. Homeless shelters who kept their doors opened 24-7 last week provided much needed relief to a struggling community, but in reality, they did nothing except push the problem aside for a while.

 

I applaud the community volunteers who sacrificed their week to address homelessness, but it’s time for us to continue what they started. If these additional resources were not just to create the facade that homelessness is not a problem in Minneapolis, then the programs must continue. The true test of the city of Minneapolis will be how we represent ourselves now that the cameras have been turned off. I encourage each and every one of you to get involved in the fight against homelessness. There are countless organizations including Our Savior’s Shelter, St. Stephen’s Street Outreach, and Simpson Housing Services, all of which could use your donation and, even more importantly, your time. Check out any of the links above to start making a positive impact on the homeless community here in Minneapolis. The Super Bowl has ended, but the daily struggle homeless individuals face persists. So now it’s up to us. Will we let the problem endure, or will we continue the outreach sparked by the Super Bowl?