A new home for the homeless (5×8 – 12/20/13)


Downtown Saint Paul’s Dorothy Day Center will soon disappear, MPR News reporter Julie Siple writes today. It was never intended to be a place where the homeless sleep, but a few hundred people cram in there every night. It needed a lot of money to bring it up to code. It also was a prominent reminder to a large number of people downtown that there are homeless people, huddled just a few steps from the gleaming Xcel arena.

When the 2008 Republican National Convention was held in Saint Paul, officials didn’t try to move the homeless to the suburbs, as they do in other convention cities. Instead, they put up a giant black shroud around the center to hide it.

The need to move — hide, some people might say — the homeless from the downtown was echoed in a task force director’s assessment in Siple’s story.

“Twenty-thousand people coming from all over the metropolitan area, and their first introduction — the first introduction — when they get off the highway to the city of St. Paul, because we haven’t provided a place where people can congregate with dignity during the day, is people sitting on the sidewalk, people sitting on the curb, people laying in the grass,” Matt Kramer told Siple. “And you say — ‘this is our capital city?'”

The homeless don’t like being in a prominent place either, Catholic Charities says.

The current location is being eyed for tax-producing purposes or low-income housing.

But the question remains: where to, homeless people?

The Pioneer Press has the answer:

Mayor Chris Coleman will join Marx and task force members at Dorothy Day to unveil a proposal for a five-level building that would combine a 320-person emergency shelter on the ground level with 150 upper-story single-occupancy rooms and efficiency apartments.

The building would adjoin a Connection Center, a job training and social services facility with the capacity to serve up to 450 people at a time. Construction could begin in 2015.

Tentative plans call for it to be built in the northeast corner of downtown near the Ramsey County Law Enforcement Center on Lafayette Road.

The plan’s second stage would preserve or build 226 units of affordable housing at or near the current Dorothy Day site on Old Sixth Street.

“The reality is, this should have been done five years ago,” Coleman said. “The face of homelessness is changing, and it’s not a safe, dignified environment. … When Dorothy Day was built, that was done based on the best thinking at the time for how to support our residents. Our thinking has evolved.”

Officials will ask the Legislature for help paying for all of this.

In his 2004 State of the State address, Gov. Tim Pawlenty set 2010 as the deadline to end homelessness in Minnesota. He missed. Homelessness exploded because of the economic meltdown and in 2011, the Dorothy Day Center began turning people away for the first time.

This week state and social service officials announced another plan to try to make a dent in homelessness.

Related: Queens pol cuts short his experience as a homeless man (NY Daily News).

East Bethel Teen Spends More Than $500 Buying Gifts For Homeless (WCCO).

As Christmas approaches amid clergy abuse revelations, Catholics weigh options for giving (Minnesota Public Radio News).


A viewer writes to the PBS ombudsman:

“I’m a devoted watcher of the NewsHour. I’m talking decades (I’m 67). I’m also a devoted listener to NPR. The two news organizations broadcast roughly similar news stories. Sometimes one is better than the other or vice versa. But yesterday [12/17], the situation was outrageous. Luckily I had listened to the NPR story before I watched PBS. The NPR story about GlaxoSmithKline was excellent, interviewing top experts on the issue. By contrast, the PBS NewsHour interviews amounted to a whitewash of the drug/medical complex practices. Given the enormous importance of the issue for this country, you should make amends. I’ll be watching for them.”

How can two public broadcasting outfits treat the same story so differently? Michael Getler, the PBS ombudsman dissects both stories in a new post.

The NewsHour segment took nine-and-a-half minutes. The NPR radio report took less than half that time, was also informative, but had a sharper edge throughout and was conducted by a general assignment business correspondent, Yuki Noguchi. Being on radio, rather than in a television studio with the guests sitting next to the host on camera, Noguchi was also able to succinctly summarize the views of those she interviewed, while using fewer long quotes from them.

Both programs used Dr. Jerry Avorn of the Harvard Medical School as one of the featured guests, which is another reason why I don’t agree with the characterization in the viewer’s letter. But Noguchi, helpfully I thought, tells the listening audience right at the start that Dr. Avorn also “writes about the medical community’s conflict of interest problems.” Woodruff made no attempt at the outset to describe the views of the two guests other than to say “they have different views.”

Woodruff did not shrink from the controversial nature of this subject, telling viewers as she introduced the segment that GSK’s “moves come following other problems for the company, including a bribery scandal in China involving payments to allegedly boost sales, and a settlement with the U.S. government last year on marketing drugs for improper uses.”

Her other guest was also from the Harvard Medical School, Dr. Thomas Stossel, who took an opposing view on some of Dr. Avorn’s criticisms but added more complexity to the controversy — and value to the discussion, in my opinion — pointing out, for example, that for physicians and ultimately for patients, “it’s the quality of the information, not the judgments about the motives of the people providing it, that is important.”

That kind of complexity was not contained in the NPR report, which had a slight editorial tone but was livelier, more focused, more critical but also managed to provide other important aspects in less than half the time.

In his analysis — the full version of which is here — he also noted that NewsHour uses guests in studio, and there’s a certain “politeness” required. But in the end, he says, the Public TV audience can figure a lot of things out for themselves.

More media: Another familiar name takes the NPR buyout.


A four year old girl, Harmony Taylor, was born without a hand.

So a robotics team from a Michigan high school went to work and, over six weeks, built her one from parts made from a 3D printer.

Yesterday they gave it to her along with a bottle of pink nail polish.

“We usually are building robotics or playing games but when you can actually help people and use the things that we’ve learn from robotics in a real world situation, it just feels really great,” one of the kids said.

“It is so great to be able do something that can change her life,” said Liu, who said they spent about two hours in the evenings once a week to complete the project.

(h/t: Matt and Sarah Black)


Friday is StoryCorps Day on NPR, when the network plays interviews with people who stopped in to share their story, which usually leave a lump in the throat.

Now, StoryCorps is going visual. It’s just produced another in a series of animated videos based on the stories and will combine them into a TV special in February.

Today’s radio StoryCorps: A home-cooked dinner that’s more than a meal. (NPR)


Because it’s a particularly lousy time to be in the hospital…

Because there’s still such a thing as flash mobs…

Bonus I: 70-year-old raises money for Liberty High School in a one-sided challenge to its student athletes (The Washington Post).

Bonus II: A popular entertainer said something people didn’t like and lost a job because of it. No, it’s not who you think it is.

Bonus III: Clara City couple seek answers in the aftermath of a racially driven hate crime on Highway 12 (West Central Tribune).


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: This week on the Friday Roundtable, Tom Weber speaks with three new members of the Minneapolis City Council about the big issues facing the city and how the changing face of the council reflects the growing diversity of Minneapolis.

Second hour: There aren’t many public radio listeners who can hear StoryCorps without getting a lump in the throat. Founder Dave Isay has said that the StoryCorps experience reminds us “that if we take the time to listen, we’ll find poetry wisdom and magic in the stories of the people we find all around us.” He’ll talk about the poetry and magic discovered over 10 years of recording the stories of average Americans.

Third hour: How consumers can protect themselves from Target’s data breach.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm) – Louis Johnston and Chris Farrell on the economy at year’s end. Moderated by Gary Eichten.

Science Friday (1-2 p.m.) – A look at a favorite holiday tradition – the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. Plus: Why is Google buying robots that run?

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Back on Dec. 20, 1981, the Vikings played their last game at Met Stadium. Fans rushed the field and tore down the goal posts, causing various and sundry chaos. Officials say that isn’t going to happen again. MPR’s Tim Nelson will reveal why.