50+ Generation Group
Bringing Open Access Participants Together
We are a group of people who are over 50 and who are low-income. Many of us have been or are currently homeless. We have been meeting regularly for the past 8 years.
“We discuss issues of importance to older adults. We talk about all the injustice, prejudice, and intolerance that we face as older adults daily, such as homelessness, inadequate healthcare, and unemployment.”
“I tell everyone about the 50+ group and how savvy they are about anything to do with people who are homeless, benefit programs, and unemployment.”
The 50+ Generation Group is led by its members, who set the agenda, choose programs, and serve as important links for one another to housing, healthcare services, community-building, and support. 50+ members are community leaders actively trying to access mainstream life, and they lead by example to empower others around them to do the same.
When Open Access Connections decided to host a listening session in 2006 for participants over age 50, we were eager to learn about their concerns and their lives. Fifteen people attended the session – all of whom were struggling with day-to-day survival issues. Participants had an optimistic worldview despite their many hardships and had a community orientation rather than an individualistic orientation. They believed they have something to teach others but didn’t have forums to pass on their expertise or knowledge. They were basically invisible. Participants were excited to be together and asked Open Access to continue to organize group meetings.
A majority of the original fifteen listening session participants continued to attend monthly meetings and new members have now joined them. The roster is now 80 people with 50 members regularly attending meetings. The group has worked on the following issues.
- Advocating for affordable housing, including issues in tenants’ rights, public housing, and raising awareness of Transitional and Supportive Housing issues.
- Advocating for more resources to assist older adults who are applying for Social Security Disability benefits and more resources to deal with the backlog of cases in the system.
- Opposing the Voter ID constitutional amendment in 2012.
- Coordinating non-partisan voter campaigns. Most recently, the group registered and pledged 534 homeless and low-income Minnesotans to vote, as well as completing 120 volunteer shifts of GOTV door knocking and phone canvassing.
- Working with the Raise the Wage campaign to increase the Minnesotan minimum wage to $9.50 by 2016
- Promoting and advocating for the federal Lifeline program, which provides free limited minute cell phones for low-income people.
The Group is currently working on coalition efforts to increase affordable housing funding and felon voting rights restoration.
People from several government agencies and local service providers whose work is related to these issues have attended meetings to give presentations and get input from the group. The group members have offered input on the homeless response system and policies addressing supportive housing. They have participated in many community groups where they get their voices heard.
The group is open to any low-income person over 50. The group is expanding each month and Open Access is pleased to see that community members are finding the meetings to be positive additions to their lives. Members feel strong ownership of the group.
The 50+ Generation group is the first group in Minnesota to focus on the needs of issues of people who are very low income, homeless and above the age of 50. Because of their work, the power of homeless people over 50 is increased because they are at the table now, members feel they are being taken seriously by decision makers and thus have a voice and power in policy making and the determination of resources provided to homeless people.
The 50+ Generation Group provides a way to increase inclusion of homeless and low-income people into mainstream society. Socio-economic equality is increased as it gives homeless and low-income people the tools to solve problems facing their community and improve their self-sufficiency.
This is one of our member’s stories:
One person learned about the 50+ Generation group at a recent St. Paul Project Homeless Connect. She has been a member of the 50+ Generation group for 7 months. In that time she has accomplished many tasks that has greatly improved the quality of her life including obtaining a shoe voucher, finding insurance and basic health care resources, visiting a dentist to fix her teeth, receiving legal services, obtaining a Lifeline supported cell phone, getting a birth certificate, regularly meeting with a mental health professional, and moving from an emergency shelter into a transitional housing. According to her, “I feel like I am on a roll in my life. Even my son mentioned how well I have things together. I have been able to accomplish so much in a very short period of time, and it is all because of the information and assistance that I have received from members of the 50+ Generation Group.”
We are expanding our base to make sure the concerns of older low-income adults are heard and addressed.
Call 651-523-9000 for more information.