All across the United States, people have been celebrating in jubilance after the Eagles took home the title of the 52nd Super Bowl which was held in St. Paul, Minnesota last week. And while football fans are still celebrating, the homeless in St. Paul are struggling to find housing in the aftermath of what was a surge of Super Bowl fans crowding low-rent and affordable housing in the city.
Paul and Sheila Wellstone Elementary School caters to 600 students, 70 percent of whom are learning how to read and write English. And as successful as the school has been at pulling around 520 students off the “underperforming list,” close to 90 percent of students at Wellstone Elementary School are in poverty and many are experiencing homelessness in St. Paul. Unfortunately, Wellstone Elementary is not the only school whose kids are experiencing some kind of homelessness.
Every year, close to 2,000 students in the public school system experience homelessness in St. Paul. Minnesota’s brutal winters spare no one, leaving many of these children seeking shelter from the extreme temperatures. Thanks to a school program called Project REACH, , which provides for families in the St. Paul area, many public school students and their families are placed in motel rooms to protect them from the cold. This winter, however, the Super Bowl has made finding affordable housing for those experiencing homelessness in St. Paul unreasonably difficult.
The Super Bowl season and other mega sports events are thought to bring scores of much-needed economic activity to host cities. But with the rising prices per-night in St. Paul’s motels, the city’s homeless are being pushed out of motel rooms with nowhere to go. The National Football League (NFL) set aside $1 million US to construct sports facilities and help fund non-profits promoting health and fitness in the lead-up to the Super Bowl in an attempt to relieve a portion of the financial burden on Minnesotan tax payers. This, however, did not stop the displacement of St. Paul’s homeless population in the 10-days of the football tournament, which was the coldest Super Bowl on record.
In 2015, supervisor of Project REACH, Anne McInerney, asked the Department of Education to open up public schools to house homeless students and their families. Instead, the country agreed to pay to put them in motels near schools. Although the Super Bowl has ended, homeless families in the St. Paul, McInerney told Citylab that many families are still living out of their cars, tents, and trains as a result of the recent displacement.
For the time being, those who were relocated due to the Super Bowl have been taken to temporary housing like churches and other shelters since homeless shelters were at full capacity during the Super Bowl. To make the situation easier on families affected, an emergency fund was started in order to find appropriate temporary housing for the families and organize transportation for students to get to and from school.
In the lead-up to the Super Bowl, many had expected the homeless were going to be pushed to the periphery as the tournament inched closer. Mega sport events, such as the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, had a similar impact on marginalized communities.
In St. Paul, city officials were quick to announce that the relocation of the homeless was not an attempt to forcibly displace them, but, rather, safeguard shelter and their access to resources. McInerney of Project REACH told Citylab that she wished that there was more communication from the NFL in the lead-up to the Super Bowl so the city could have better prepared for relocating the city’s homeless. “There are a lot of people who will benefit from the Super Bowl, from the state to businesses large and small. But there’s always going to be a group of people who it’ll be detrimental for,” she added.