2013 Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless Awards

Each year, the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless recognizes the outstanding service of an advocate by presenting the Bruce Vento Distinguished Service Award at the MCH Annual Conference. Beginning in 2013, the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless is also recognizing one outstanding organizer, in honor of County Commissioner Steve O’Neil.

The Bruce Vento Distinguished Service Award


Congressmen Bruce Vent0

Congressman Bruce Vento served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1971-1976 and in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1977-2000. He was well-known for his work advocating for people experiencing homelessness. Congressman Vento was the original author of what was to become the McKinney-Vento Act, the first significant federal legislative response to homelessness. The original act included programs like the Continuum of Care, Supportive Housing, Shelter Plus Care, and the Emergency Shelter Grant Program. Congressman Vento was committed to working on behalf of people experiencing homelessness until he passed away in 2000. The Bruce Vento Distinguished Service Award recognizes the efforts of an outstanding individual that provides services and housing to people in need.


Greg Owen

Greg Owen, Wilder Research         2013 Bruce Vento Award Winner




2013 Bruce Vento Award Winner

Greg Owen, Senior Research Manager of Wilder Research was recognized with the Bruce Vento Distinguished Service Award. Greg has led Wilder Research’s triennial statewide homeless survey since it was established in 1991. Over his long career with Wilder he has led numerous studies aimed at improving programs for disadvantaged populations. Greg’s service through research has contributed extraordinarily to the housing community. For over 20 years, Wilder Research’s data on homelessness has been used to build support for housing, services, and the communities they serve. In addition to Greg’s distinguished years of service, he was also recognized for his warmth, humor, and deep commitment to serving those in need.


Steve O’Neil Outstanding Organizer Award

Steve O'Neil

County Commissioner Steve O’Neil


Steve O’Neil was a St. Louis County Commissioner and tireless organizer for housing and homeless services. A Chicago native who earned a master’s degree at the University of Minnesota Duluth in the 1970s, O’Neil and his wife, Angie Miller, made advocacy a part of their daily lives. They took homeless people into their home regularly and in addition to their two children, O’Neil and Miller helped raise 25 foster children.When it came to organizing, former colleague Jim Soderberg noted, “Steve realized that if you want to create community, to move forward, you don’t demonize people. They are not the enemy because they disagree with you. You work with them.” Steve reached out his hand to likely and unlikely allies to move good policy forward. He had the ability to bring in powerful partners in all his community organizing work. Steve passed away in July 2013 and is greatly missed. The Steve O’Neil Outstanding Organizer Award recognizes the efforts of an outstanding individual who exemplifies Steve’s passion and drive for organizing social and policy change.

2013 Steve O’Neil Outstanding Organizer Award Winner

Cathy Heying, St. Stephen's Human Services,  2013 Steve O'Neil Outstanding Organizer Winner

Cathy Heying, St. Stephen’s Human Services, 2013 Steve O’Neil Outstanding Organizer Winner

Cathy Heying serves as the Human Rights & A Day in the Life Coordinator at St. Stephen’s Human Services and Executive Director of the Lift Garage, a non-profit she started to fix cars at an affordable rate for low-income community members. Cathy has over 20 years of social justice experience. Her nominator wrote, “Through her support and leadership in Homeless Against Homelessness (HAH) Cathy gives people experiencing homelessness the opportunity to learn and then speak up about the needs of their community. It’s incredibly difficult to organize with people experiencing so much crisis and instability in their own lives, yet Cathy makes it work.” The nomination concluded,  “Through all of these efforts, Cathy displays her trademark generosity, humility, passion, and smarts. I’m moved by her innate respect for all people and desire for equality. Her compassion is bottomless. Changing the world is not just her job, it’s her life.”

The 1986 MFIP Yearbook mentioned in Cathy’s award presentation is available here.