When you see the pain that many families are experiencing during these challenging times, it underscores two lifeline areas of need. One is housing and one is food.

It’s probably hard for many of us to put ourselves in the situation of having no food or housing, and wondering where to turn. It’s why fear has risen and hope has diminished for a growing number of people.

These life-sustaining necessities are why Chaska has always had a housing strategy that provided affordable housing to meet lower income needs. Now homelessness is growing in our communities, and unfortunately will continue to grow, so housing takes an even more important role.

We heard the message in our community that we have done enough in this area, let others step up. Now, more recently, the City Council has said our community values define who we are. Given that thinking, affordable housing is again seen as a priority. That is refreshing to see and represents the values of Chaska over its history.

DEVELOPER VIEWS

Developers will want to build housing that the market demands, and right now that is high-value, suburban-type housing. We see that development in droves today.

What seems to not be built are neighborhoods allowing people to start out with their first house and grow into other housing as their family and needs grow. I would hope this type of neighborhood development can be encouraged, because suburban development doesn’t provide that growth option.

So the question is where are those with lower incomes to live? Where are those who need to take their first housing step, going to go? Where is the affordable senior housing to be found when seniors want to sell their homes and downsize? Where is an emergency shelter in Carver County?

People can point to balanced housing goals being met, but go out there and see that people are struggling to find housing they can afford.

A primary reason for this no doubt is the cost of land. That is certainly a challenge to providing affordable housing, but if more affordable housing is a community priority and a commitment exists to address the need, then progress can be made.

FOOD

The first thing that comes to mind in this area is the wonderful work being done by many organizations. Organizations that are committed to providing food to those who are struggling, who are losing hope.

Recognizing this work is important, recognizing the ongoing support with the public can sustain their work.

It’s the work of a caring community of people, again reaching out to other less fortunate members of the community. Thank you for your dedication and your commitment of caring about fellow community members.

I think of Bountiful Basket Food Shelf, which this year is projecting it will distribute 384,000 pounds of food, serving 16,100 individuals and 5,000 households in the Chaska, Carver, Victoria and Chanhassen area.

In addition, Bountiful Basket has partnered with other organizations, such as SouthWest Transit to deliver food to needy families. Another partnership has been created with Humanity Alliance, providing weekend meals to families using the St. Victoria facilities. Bountiful Basket has also sponsored food giveaways.

I think of the His House Foundation and their Abundance Program collecting food from restaurants and grocery stores and then distributing it to needy families. They also coordinated the Michael’s Foods distribution at Chaska High School, providing food to hundreds of families, earlier this year. They are constantly on the go helping address people’s needs.

I think of other food giveaways, the latest one being the produce giveaway distributed from St. Johns in Chaska and others, sponsored by the Latino Voices group at Riverview Terrace. Another example is the meals prepared and delivered by Clover Ridge Elementary School staff.

I think of the weekly Gathering meal offered by St. John’s, again to individuals and families in need, that has continued to provide meals during the pandemic.

I’d be remiss not to recognize the city of Chaska, which in many cases has provided the logistics support to ensure the efficient delivery of these food giveaways.

As part of its Chaska Cares effort, it also provides resource support to the food distribution efforts. These have been an important contribution that often goes unrecognized.

The list can go on and will go on. What it demonstrates is the caring heart of community that says “We care,” and one way to show it is ensuring no person will go hungry tonight.

So, at a time when bias and prejudice seems rapant, we are also seeing the caring heart of community. You are a blessing to our community and, for your efforts, we say thank you!

Bob Roepke is a former Chaska mayor.

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