Archive for April, 2015

Rooming Houses Are an Important Part of the Affordable Housing Patchwork

Posted on: April 16th, 2015

By Barbara Jeanetta, Executive Director of Alliance Housing Inc.

I read almost weekly about the ills of rooming house life. My google alerts bring me stories of fire, over –crowding, and substandard conditions. In Minneapolis, zoning codes prohibit new rooming house licenses. Some of you will be surprised to hear that there are still a few rooming houses out there. I toured a few existing properties a few years ago and found many of the properties worn out, but at full occupancy.

Alliance Housing gets multiple calls every day from single adults looking for an apartment. Some are not too keen on the idea of sharing a kitchen and bathroom with other adults until they learn they’ll have a lease in their name and rent is under $350. Once they are in our attractive, well-cared for building in Whittier, or one of our properties in the Powderhorn, Phillips, and Central neighborhoods, they quite happily settle in having more control over their housing situation than they’ve had for a long while.

A profile of our rooming house tenants makes it hard to put a finger on exactly who needs this type of housing. Our tenants who rent rooms are varied: men, women, working, not working, old, young. 38% of them are working, 45% are disabled and on some sort of government program, 14% are retired and receive a government or VA pension. The kinds of jobs our tenants have range from parking lot attendant to retail clerk, from fast food and janitorial work to day care. A few work seasonal landscaping and construction labor jobs. The most unique employment is a job on the carnival circuit. Some jobs pay cash. Most pay no benefits.

At an average income of $11,734, men and women who want their own place are well matched with the price of rent in an Alliance room. The average one bedroom apartment in south Minneapolis costs $788 per month. To pay 30% of one’s income or less for this rent would take a minimum wage person 65 hours per week or a much higher wage at less hours. Alliance’s rooms are affordable under the same terms for 27 hours per week.

24 of 27 tenants at our Pillsbury rooming house over the past year had lived there over 6 months. The longest tenured tenant has been there 15 years. The average tenancy is 3.5 years. There is no time limit for how long someone lives in the rooming house as long as they are paying their rent and respecting the property and their neighbors, but we hope some are able to move on to a bigger place of their own. Some find the price aligns with their income and are quite satisfied. Some get asked to move on after unsuccessful attempts to negotiate and collect rent or because of their inability to control either their own behavior or the behavior of friends.

Alliance supports the tenants’ sense of community and enforces a few rules to keep its rooming house calm and an asset to tenants and neighbors alike. Over the past year, police were called 27 times. More than 75% of the calls were for issues the police keep anonymous – help with issues related to mental health and issues that don’t involve a crime. Admittedly, six were for fights or concerns about drug activity. We take those seriously and follow-up to ensure they don’t happen again, at least with that tenant at our property.

A recent editorial by Ed Murphy of Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless noted that we have eliminated much of the housing in this community for tenants like Alliance’s at 2011 Pillsbury. Urban renewal cleared out residential hotels and pay-by-the-week housing to make way for high amenity condos and apartments in downtown Minneapolis. Coupled with higher incarceration rates and deinstitutionalizing the mentally ill without good solutions on the other side, the number of homeless adults who can’t afford or get screened out of today’s affordable housing options continues to increase. Well-run rooming houses like Alliance’s are part of the solution. Better public policy and use of government support would encourage their presence and focus on keeping them well-managed in order to keep low-wage and low-income adults housed.

Hands on Twin Cities Volunteer Expo

Posted on: April 7th, 2015

Alliance Housing participated in Hands on Twin Cities Volunteer Expo at the Mall of America on Valentine’s Day.  The event is designed to introduce Twin Cities nonprofits and their volunteer opportunities to Mall visitors and businesses.  Hands On also selected and funded Alliance’s speed volunteering activity – welcome cleaning kits for Northside Supportive Housing for Families.  We’d love to partner with a group or corporation to provide the kits long term.  We’re also looking for someone or a group that would buy and provide birthday kits for families.  If you’re interested, please call Barbara Jeanetta at 612-879-7633.20150214_104024

AIA design charrette & Beltrami

Posted on: April 7th, 2015

Alliance partnered with the Beltrami neighborhood group in visioning what an investment in housing might look like on the dead end of NE Taylor Street.  The American Institute of Architects helped us out by selecting the site as one of their 2015 Search for Shelter projects.  The team consisted of two practicing architects and several students.  They brought creativity and sensitivity to neighborhood context to their work.  Lots more work continues before the idea becomes reality including further conversation with the neighborhood on February 25th.

Lynne’s departure

Posted on: April 7th, 2015

We bid farewell and thank you to Administrative Coordinator, Lynne Rectenwald, in February.  Lynne joined Alliance Housing in 2010.  Kudos thrown her way at her farewell lunch included:  she brought polish and professionalism to Alliance’s events, she tackled and organized the mountains of paperwork that had accumulated at Alliance, she brought a positive, can do attitude to all of her work.  We were lucky to have someone of Lynne’s talents and wish her well as she returns to the world of meeting planning fulltime.

A Family Bequest

Posted on: April 7th, 2015

Alliance Housing was honored to receive a number of donations in honor of Karl Cooper in January 2015.  The family was attracted to us because of our 2nd chance housing philosophy.  Karl spent much of his life working and living among those who needed a 2nd chance.

 

Alliance’s founding roots were set around the conviction that poor and homeless people can act in their own best interest and need to be part of solving their own problems.  Our board leaders have stewarded that conviction for the 20+ years of our history.

 

A shout out to our many other faithful and loyal donors who make our ongoing work possible.

We’ve Got A Lot to Celebrate!

Posted on: April 7th, 2015

20150205_182411On a cold night in February, eight families came together to celebrate their accomplishments and progress.  Coaches, Sue & Melanie, organized food, games and a festive atmosphere to build positive relationships among participating Northside Supportive Housing Families.  The night highlighted each families’ progress on goals.  Latece is raising  2 kids along with her partner.  She was recognized for evaluating job training programs, enrolling in Twin Cities RISE! and working towards a career.  Michele, mother of 3 sons, started the evening by helping us set up the room.  She was recognized for her fulltime job stability and entering her 3rd semester of college as well as obtaining her driver’s license.  Shantell and Tim came with two of their kids.  Shantelle started a career in child development as a volunteer at PICA.  She is now employed fulltime with benefits at a daycare center.  Keleshia, mother of three young children, holds down a job in health care while she works on her GED.  She has passed 3 of the 4 required tests.  Gloria is raising four children.  She works in health care customer service at a hospital, completed her GED and got a driver’s license.  Felicia, mom of two, works as an AmeriCorps reading tutor in a North Minneapolis school.  She loves the job and believes it is building her resume and skills to obtain similar work.  Felicia also pitched in to set up and clean up after the event.  Keith and his spouse are both working and raising two young daughters.  They share child care and are actively paying down debt.  Candice and her partner are raising four kids.  Despite many barriers they are both working.  Candice is training for a managerial position in her company.

 

It might all sound pretty straightforward if I didn’t know the back story.  Many of the adults had never held a job for more than a year.  Many had never had a lease in their name or managed to retain housing for 6 months previously.  All were in an emergency homeless shelter for families before moving into Alliance’s housing and enrolling in the program.  Some had or were working crazy part time hours required in the service industry.  Most took public transportation to get kids to daycare and then to work.  Something higher than $10 an hour was the highest wage any had earned previously.  They were managing to pay rent and buy household essentials on less than $20,000 per year.  I’d challenge any of us that have had more privilege in our lives and work to survive one day in their shoes.

 

But on February 5th, we weren’t focused on the barriers or challenges.  It was a night to celebrate  accomplishments and what was ahead.  If you’d like to learn more about our program, check out our website (http://www.alliancehousinginc.org/program/) or give us a call.

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