racial equity vision & values


More than sixty-five percent of the people that shelter with People Serving People are African American, and over eleven percent are Native American. These two communities are over-represented among families that experience homelessness. It is a reality that points to homelessness as a symptom of racism.

As such, People Serving People approaches its work with an emphasis on racial equity and authentic community engagement. Adapted from PolicyLink The Equity Manifesto definition of equity, we think of racial equity as the just and fair inclusion into a society in which all Black, Indigenous and People of Color can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. We center the experiences of those impacted most directly by homelessness and support their vision for our community.

To accomplish this, we adopt a racial equity lens where we pay disciplined attention to race and ethnicity while analyzing problems, looking for solutions, and defining success. We recognize the importance of investigating the ways structures and processes are also shaped by gender, economic status, class, sexuality, immigration status, etc. to fully understand the cumulative and intersectional impacts of oppression. We are cognizant of the role of power to affect change and actively work to build power with those impacted by homelessness.

At the end of the day, we know that we will have false starts, stumble, get it wrong, and will always be on our journey.

Equity in Action

We know that ultimately, equity is action through process and results. Here are some of the ways we are working to make equity actionable.

Racial Equity is a Strategic Priority. Fueling our values, the Board of Directors adopted Championing Racial Equity as a strategic direction. This is part of our efforts toward transformative change in our organization and community, where we work intentionally to address the root causes of racism, white norms, and power structures that prevent us from furthering our mission. The work ahead involves developing shared language and building staff and organizational capacity on cultural competency and racial equity. We are committed to sharpening our racial equity lens in the years to come.

As Minnesota’s largest shelter for families experiencing homelessness and other instabilities, racial equity is at the center of our work at People Serving People. In our work as an organization, we will work to create change – small and systemic. We remain resolute in this commitment to our families, staff, and the community.
–Karen Kepler, People Serving People Inc. Board Chair

Guest Advisory Council. People Serving People’s Guest Advisory Council is made up of shelter guests, residents, and employees. Members of the council come from different backgrounds and work together to help inform and shape organizational policies. It is a space where all voices are heard so that People Serving People can best support families and provide a quality experience. Led by those most impacted, the Guest Advisory Council is empowered with the ability to identify barriers constructed by the organization and systems and emboldened to advocate for change both within the organization and outside of it. The Guest Advisory Council’s work and suggestions have led to tangible changes in our building, processes, and policies on everything from child safety and security, to equitable laundry access.

Civic Engagement. Our civic engagement efforts are opportunities for staff and guests, families, and residents to work together towards building power, activating voices, and changing systems. We work to make sure all members of our community are counted in the 2020 Census, and every major election season we co-lead voter engagement with our staff and community (more at Alliance for Strong Families and Community). The work of this team was joyfully co-created, based in consensus, and executed by staff and guests alike.

Prevention Initiatives. Our initiatives to prevent the (re)occurrence of family homelessness are rooted racial equity and explicitly led with goals on decreasing African American and Native American family experiences of homelessness. The Family Financial Empowerment Collaboration is a deep dive into policy and practices that prohibit asset building for families in shelter with a focus on African and Native American families. The Whole Family Systems Initiative is a five year learning partnership with the state that will allow the organization and families to identify and implement two-generation policy interventions that work to prevent the experience of family homelessness.