On a recent wintry day, residents from the Kenwood Retirement Community visited Alliance’s Minnehaha
Commons. The Kenwood residents brought many products of their labor – hand-knit scarves, hats, and
dishcloths, and a handmade fleece pillow for each of the 44 residents. The four Kenwood visitors were part of a
larger group of 18 volunteers who have been hand-making gifts for the past six months. Minnehaha
Commons hosts welcomed their visitors with smiles, words of thanks, and a tour of one of the apartments.
Both groups of residents had a chance to chat and share some snacks. All over age 55, the two groups were
overheard to share tips of aging well. The Kenwood visitors went back home with a feeling of a job well done,
and happiness to see that the Minnehaha Commons residents now have safe and comfortable homes. And the
Minnehaha Commons residents enjoyed the company, treats and were pleased with their colorful and practical
Archive for the ‘Resident Stories’ Category
On a recent wintry day, residents from the Kenwood Retirement Community visited Alliance’s Minnehaha
Alliance Housing’s policy advocacy work is primarily carried out through a variety of coalitions. Alliance is a member of The Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless. The organization is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) public policy and advocacy organization that works
to ensure statewide housing stability and economic security. The Coalition works with those experiencing housing instability in partnership with over 120 members across the state. These members range from those who work across the housing continuum
in direct service, to state agencies in public policy.
Each year the Coalition hosts “Homeless Day on the Hill” gathering its members and individuals who have experienced homelessness to advocate for additional housing resources at the Minnesota Legislature. The day starts with some training and a rally
and then teams of participants head off to the Capitol to meet with Senators and Representatives for the neighborhoods where they live.
Alliance has participated in the Homeless Day on the Hill most years and has engaged tenants to join in. Barb noted, “tenant participants
are always tentative at first but once engaged they feel pretty important and powerful about their ability to access elected officials.”
There is a lot at stake this year with the Governor’s proposal for $200 million in housing infrastructure bonds and other affordable
housing resources and tenant protections. The Homes for All MN coalition is asking for $500 million in bonds for housing, $15 million for
the emergency services program and $50 million to expand and preserve emergency shelter beds. Please help us by talking to your
legislative representatives about supporting increased resources for affordable housing. Let’s go big so everyone can go home!
Alliance Housing has always focused its rental portfolio on those with the lowest income. In addition to its rooming houses which
are home to many extremely low-income adults on a fixed income, family housing rent levels provide an option for low wage workers
earning $10-$15/hour. These individuals are being priced out of the market, yet the positions they hold are critical in the metro area
economy and reflect positions with high projected growth rates. Alliance’s housing anchors affordability in Minneapolis
neighborhoods close to jobs and good transit. Most tenants can afford Alliance’s apartments without additional (and almost
nonexistent) rent subsidies.
Jessica, Keisha, and Krystal have all benefitted through the years by living in Alliance Housing properties. They are all single mothers.
They each work more than full-time to provide for their families. And the road would have been a lot tougher without the affordable
rent Alliance Housing charges.
Jessica is a graduate of Alliance’s Northside Supportive Housing for Families. Although the program no longer exists, Jessica’s success
is a testament to the value of the program, and the importance of affordable housing for low-wage workers. Jessica and her two sons
ended up homeless in 2013 and stayed at several shelters, and the recently demolished Drake Hotel. In August 2014, Jessica found
Alliance Housing. At the time, she did not have a lot of work experience. Through the help of a job counselor, hard work, and
determination, Jessica’s wages grew from her starting wage of $8.60 an hour. She was also able to find full-time work. Today, after
many job changes, and always increasing her job responsibilities, Jessica is now proudly earning $17.50 an hour, and can work from
home, which is even better for her family. When Jessica left her Alliance home, she was paying about $10,000 a year in rent.
According to the Living Wage Calculator for Hennepin County*, the typical rent expense is about $14,000 a year. So Jessica was able
to spend the extra $4,000 on other necessities, and even save some for the future, enabling her to move out of Alliance Housing in
2016. Since that time, she and her boys have lived in the same privately-owned apartment. They are all stable and thriving.
Keisha also pays about $10,000 in rent per year for her Alliance home in North Minneapolis. According to the same calculator*, the
typical housing expense for her family would be almost $20,000 per year. She is learning to save some of that “extra” money that she doesn’t have to spend on rent and feels proud that she is being responsible. Keisha and her three children, a boy and two girls, moved in December 2016. At that point, she paid 37% of her income towards rent. She managed but it left little room for unplanned expenses.
Alliance Housing property manager, Bob Bono, has often noted, “how hard Keisha works and how dedicated she is to managing her household and overall budget.” Since January 2017 Keisha has been working at Sunrise Senior Living. She started out working at the bottom of the employment rung and has moved up to being Lead Care Manager. Her current rent is now 24% of her income, allowing her a little breathing room.
She loves her job, relishing working with others, solving problems, and the opportunity to move up in her career. She works as much as she can to get ahead and not have to live paycheck to paycheck. The elderly residents often ask her “Are you still here?” after seeing her in the morning, in the afternoon, and the evening. Her job is just a few minutes from her apartment, and the children go to school across the street from each other, about a 10-minute drive from home.
Keisha recently accidentally became a Girl Scout leader. She was excited for her oldest daughter to join, and in the flurry of paperwork,
unwittingly signed up to be a leader. She came with her daughter to the first meeting of the troop and someone said, “This is your
troop.” Looking at all those little faces Keisha said, “I couldn’t back down.” She is proud of her troop. “They are so tiny, but they can
learn. We are teaching them the Girl Scout Promise, The Girl Scout Law, and Girl Scout songs. They love it.”
Like Keisha and Jessica, Krystal is a proud mom. When she originally moved to the Twin Cities from St. Louis, she and her son lived
in Richfield. Even though they now live in an Alliance Housing apartment in south Minneapolis, Krystal drives her 14-year-old son to
school each day, so he can experience the stability of staying with his friends in the same school. She was happy to find her apartment
in Powderhorn because she could reduce her rent payments to only 30% of her income at the time.
Krystal loves cooking and exploring different cuisines. Currently, Krystal works two jobs as a cook. She can’t get enough hours at either job to be full time and does not have benefits. She typically works 6 or 7 days a week, with a double shift on Sundays, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Krystal spent her first day off in 23 days being interviewed for this article.
Despite working a lot, Krystal wants even more hours because her main goal is financial stability. With an increased income, she currently pays 20% of her income towards rent giving her a little breathing room to pay off debt due to a car accident, car repair bills and student loans.
Through it all, the staff at Alliance have been understanding, and as Krystal put it “resourcefully helpful.” Property manager Bob Bono has put her in touch with other organizations that can help Krystal move forward. She explained “most people I’ve met in my
life haven’t been as understanding,” and added that she tries “to take good advice.” With her experience in food service, she dreams of having her own catering business or a bakery. Like Jessica and Keisha, the money she can save through Alliance’s lower rents will help her achieve her dreams.
Our working tenants will be some of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re preparing to be even more lenient on rent than we usually are. We’ll negotiate payment plans with tenants that lost hours due to business closings or having to care for school-age children. We know you, our donors, wouldn’t want it any other way.
Once a person moves into their Alliance home, they often don’t have some basic necessities. If they were homeless, they’ve lost or had to leave behind things like bedding and housewares. Bridging MN has started a pilot program to address the issue of smaller necessities. Mary Resemius, Housing Operations Assistant at Alliance toured the Bridging warehouse and saw the program as a great way to move Alliance Housing residents forward on the path of future independence. Mary seeded the program by donating money to fund over a dozen shopping sprees for single residents for a year. Mary explained that because many of our residents live in single-room occupancy units, and efficiencies, they do not need a full house of stuff. This program will fill a need, which Mary saw, and stepped forward to fill.
Most people, as they age, would appreciate a few more conveniences and comfort: an elevator, help with chores, or maybe just peace and quiet. Alliance Housing’s aging rooming house tenants were motivation to pursue funding to build a place where they could find these amenities. We also learned that the only portion of the homeless population that was growing (and had tripled in the last 12 years) was older adults. The streets and shelters are no place to call home when you’re over 55 years old. Homeless older adults are more vulnerable to thefts and homelessness is harder on their health.
Minnehaha Commons, Alliance’s newest property, is designed for singles, ages 55 and older, who have experienced long-term homelessness. Seven of the forty-four studio apartments are designated for people who are already residents in Alliance Housing, and they were the first to move in. Tom and Ed are settling into their new homes and agreed to share their stories.
Tom, age 79, has spent most of his life adapting to new surroundings. He was sent to reform school when he was nine. After being there a while, he ran away and lived life on the streets before getting locked up in prison for a felony charge. He then spent most of his young adult years adapting to the culture of prison life.
Tom also lived in his car for three years, before moving into Alliance’s rooming house in January of 2015. The rooming house gave Tom a roof over his head, an address to receive mail, and a place to call home.
But the rooming house was becoming very difficult for Tom as he grew older. As he said, “I love cooking, but I hate having to go down to the basement (at the rooming house) and stay down there while it’s cooking. You couldn’t do anything but stay down there the whole time you’re cooking. Now I’ll be able to throw something in the oven and hop in the shower.” In addition to making the basic act of feeding himself far more convenient, Minnehaha Commons has an elevator that will allow Tom to easily get to his third floor home without the pain of stairs. He’s also excited to be able to finally watch each of the 41 channels his TV allows, all while enjoying his signature Southern biscuits and gravy. He is already adapting to his new, Alliance home.
Originally from California, Ed, now 62, moved to Minnesota with his wife and children in 1989. After he and his wife divorced, Ed spent the next 17 years living with friends but mostly living on the streets and in various shelters. Then in 2013, Ed was hit by a delivery truck, which crushed his right foot. At the time of the accident, Ed was under the influence and therefore unable to file an insurance claim. Swamped with hospital bills, Ed was sent to a nursing home to recover for four months. Since 2016, Ed has lived at the Alliance rooming house. His apartment was on the first floor, so somewhat more accessible than Tom’s, but he still had to go up and downstairs to make a meal, and down the hall to go to the bathroom. He is very happy to now have his own bathroom and kitchen at Minnehaha Commons.
In addition to the devastating injury to his foot, Ed also suffers from bone spurs, a hereditary disease that causes him to experience extreme joint pain. And Ed has had two major shoulder surgeries. His doctor tells him that before long, he’ll need a wheelchair. Fortunately, Minnehaha Commons provides Ed and other residents the accessibility and convenience he will need as he ages. His bathroom has a walk-in shower, which can also accommodate a wheelchair, and many grab-bars. The height of his bed is adjustable, ready to change as his needs change. And all the apartments are fully furnished. Ed is excited to personalize his new home to fulfill his needs.
We look forward to seeing Tom, Ed and others create a home for themselves in a new community. Touchstone Mental Health staff is on-site to assist with health and personal needs that can help build stability and well-being. As it is often said, it takes a village and Touchstone has become a valuable part of the Alliance village.
41 sleeping rooms
You may have heard us talk about our sleeping rooms – an endangered species in the Twin Cities housing market. 41 adult men and women call Alliance’s rooms “home.” Rooms rent for around $350 per month – an amount affordable to someone living on a fixed disability award or $9-$12 hour per hour wages at jobs without regular schedules. Tenants live an average of 4 years in Alliance’s rooms. 20% have called it home for over 5 years and 7% over 10 years. Residents give up a bit of privacy for the affordable rent and share a kitchen and bathroom with other unrelated adults. They cannot have overnight guests .
Dustin was homeless for at least three years before becoming a resident at Alliance’s rooming house. This will be his third winter of stable housing. When Dustin first moved in, he had many problems with drinking, partying with drunk friends, and disturbing his neighbors. Working with Dustin’s case manager through Catholic Charities, Alliance’s property manager, Bob Bono, repeatedly tried to re-direct bad behavior in a non-threatening and non-judgmental way. Dustin eventually realized that having a home was more important than drinking to excess and allowing his friends to party in his room. He’s now on good terms with his neighbors and is working hard to keep it that way. He now sees himself as part of the community.
While Dustin has had his ups and downs with his neighbors in the past – “it’s not Sesame Street” he says, he likes that he knows his neighbors, and that people at the rooming house look out for each other. One thoughtful neighbor occasionally leaves a hot cup of coffee outside his door in the morning. Another neighbor was happy when Dustin gave him a pair of jeans. Many residents set things out on the lobby table for taking – a book, candy, playing cards – and these things always find a new home. He also enjoys the monthly community meals at the rooming house, hosted by the Sahades family from Ebenezer Fellowship SDA Church. He and his neighbors sit around and chat, long after they have finished eating.
Dustin is currently unemployed. He admits to a criminal history, and mental health and chemical dependency “demons” all of which make it hard to find a job. But Dustin is getting counseling, and he wants to get training to become a licensed forklift operator, work that he has done before, and enjoyed. In the meantime, he tries to keep himself busy by taking long walks and bike rides around the city, playing cards with friends, and sharing meals at Simpson. He relishes playing cribbage and carries his cribbage board with him, so he is ready to play anytime.
Dustin is happy to be a resident of Alliance Housing. He’s building up a good rental history. He’s proud to be managing his money and taking care of himself. He’s grateful that he’s in a stable home, where he doesn’t have to “lie, cheat, or steal” to survive.
40 family apartments
The City of Minneapolis is 70% single family homes and smaller multi-unit properties – duplexes, four-plexes etc. These multi-unit homes, embedded in neighborhoods with proximity to schools and parks are great family housing. Alliance’s two bedroom apartments rent for around $750 per month. Three bedroom apartments rent for around $850 month. Families wouldn’t be able to find comparable housing in Minneapolis neighborhoods without paying $300-$500 more per month. Alliance’s tenants earn less than $20,250 per year – they are food service workers, janitors, day care workers, customer service personnel etc. Families stay an average of 3+ years and 24% have called us home for 5 or more years.
It’s clear when you enter Anitra’s apartment on Penn Avenue that she is proud of her home. Shoes are neatly lined up at the door. It’s quiet and calm. Her toddler daughter’s artwork is carefully displayed. Anitra is happy to provide a stable home for her two children, who have never known homelessness. She’s been in her Alliance home for almost a year.
Currently, Anitra is a stay-at-home mom, but she looks forward to enrolling the girls in daycare, and then getting a job, perhaps in the hospitality industry.
In the past, Anitra spent five years being homeless, which for her meant sleeping on the streets, huddling in her car, staying in shelters, and house-hopping at her mother’s, father’s, and brother’s homes – no way to live. Once she got connected with services through St. Stephen’s and then housing with Alliance, things began looking up for Anitra, and she could settle into her new home. The building is close to a park where her daughters can play. It is conveniently located on a high-frequency bus line, with many stores and amenities nearby. The laundry is right downstairs. Most of all, she doesn’t have to worry. She and her family are secure for now. They have clothing, food, and a place to keep their possessions. It’s called “home.”
Alliance is able to keep rents extra affordable in rooms and family apartments to very low income adults through non-amortizing government capital funding and charitable donations.
Hiawatha Commons and Gateway Lofts
Alliance built Hiawatha Commons in 2005 and Gateway Lofts in 2010. Both properties took advantage of the federal low income housing tax credit for construction. Broen Housing, our long time real estate development consultants, also helped Alliance acquire additional non-amortizing debt to assure rents remain affordable for the long run.
Hiawatha’s 80 apartments are nearing their 14th birthday. The building still looks physically great and commons spaces clean. Hayes Gibson, our contracted property manager, does a terrific job in maintenance as well as tenant relations. It was one of the first affordable rental properties built to take advantage of the light rail line on the Hiawatha corridor. Clerks and service workers from the airport can live and get to work without the expense of a car. Others take advantage of the varied bus routes nearby to get downtown and to suburban work locations. Some are fortunate to be able to walk to nearby retail and other employers.
Gateway Lofts located near Thomas on West Broadway was built in 2010 to expand the type of units available at Hiawatha. Its 46 apartments were some of the first few affordable newly constructed buildings on West Broadway which laid the foundation for market rate apartments today. Gateway is home to a number of adults who move around in a wheel chair or motorized cart. Options for mobility handicapped persons were limited in North Minneapolis until newer properties became available.
At both properties, studio apartments, some with balconies, rent for an average of $500 per month. 1 bedroom apartments rent from $465-865 per month. A handful of 2 bedroom apartments rent for about $1000 per month. Households need to earn less than $19,850 for most of the studios. Three person households need to earn less than $42,450 for the 2 bedroom apartments. Both properties are home to tenants who moved in shortly after construction.
Renisha, her husband, and three children thrive in the 4-story community that has been their home for almost a decade. Like Renisha, many of our residents have families, and appreciate Alliance’s quiet, safe, and stable housing at Hiawatha Commons. In addition to the convenience of having nearby transportation and shopping, Renisha likes that neighbors know each other. She is thankful that on-site staff keeps everything clean, repaired, and most importantly, friendly and caring. She loves that her children go to school with other children in the building. Renisha is grateful that Alliance leased to her years ago and let her move into larger apartments as her family grew. Stable housing has provided a solid foundation for she and her family.
Alliance Housing’s Golden Valley Road four-plex sits just two blocks from Wirth Parkway, a long stretch of park including wide-open green space, and biking and walking trails. It’s a serene setting, yet only a few blocks away from buses and convenient thoroughfares. The building is home to four families – seven adults and six children. It’s easy for the families to walk to the park for fresh air and exercise.
The residents of the four-plex appreciate that they are in a safe, well-kept building and neighborhood. It’s been a perfect environment for them to work on their goals as part of the Northside Supportive Housing for Families (NSHF) program. The focus of NSHF is moving families to economic independence so they will no longer need government supported housing. Although the program is ending, the four families are well-positioned to continue their success.
Tricia and Tyrone and their infant son joined the NSHF program in October of 2013. When their son starts kindergarten this fall, Golden Valley Road will be the only home he has known. This stability allowed Tricia and Tyrone to notice their son was struggling, and to get help for him. He was diagnosed with autism, but thanks to early and consistent intervention, he is learning and flourishing. When they complete their 5 years in the program, both Tricia and Tyrone will have achieved their goals of having bank accounts, improved credit, driver’s licenses, and a car.
In addition to the more tangible benefits of stable and affordable housing such as saving money, Tricia has grown in self-confidence and drive. She has taken on public speaking, proudly presenting on behalf of Alliance on two occasions. In her recent talk with the Minnesota Department of Humans Services staff, Tricia told the audience “I’m not stopping at $15 per hour. I want what you have – a salary and benefits.” This is a huge shift in mindset for Tricia, who was originally ambivalent about working.
Neighbors Starisha and Keith experienced a period of homelessness before moving into their Golden Valley Road home. It’s not surprising that their new-found stability is important to them. Starisha said, “Your whole life is stable if you have a home to go home to.” The couple has been in the program for 4 years. Starisha is getting her Associates Degree in Nursing at MCTC. Keith is working in banking. They have two daughters, and their oldest daughter started kindergarten at a performing arts school this year. The family has paid off most of their debt and is starting to build their credit.
Upstairs, Jinnifer is providing a safe and stable home for her high-school age daughter and 3-year old son. She is working on building her credit and plans to go to school this fall to begin a two-year nursing degree. She’ll get help with tuition from her employer, Hennepin County Medical Center. Her years of experience as a certified nursing assistant helped her get that good paying job and benefits at HCMC. Jinnifer’s two and a half years in the NSHF program have helped her build on her successes.
Across the hall, Angel and Alonzo are celebrating their longest stay in one apartment. They moved in 3 years ago. Leo, Alliance’s volunteer social worker, told the couple about the school choice program, and with Leo’s guidance, they were able to select a school that was a good fit for their kindergarten-aged daughter who loves school and is thriving. Angel is pursuing an Associate Degree in business at MCTC and is applying those newly-learned skills working at MNDOT at a job she loves. Alonzo is starting a training program in building maintenance, so he can have job security and earn a living wage. In addition to their own hard work, Alonzo and Angel also credit Sue Roedl, Supportive Services Coordinator for NSHF, with their success. “Sue has been a terrific resource,” they said. “She’s been able to respond to what we need and help evaluate options.”
When you walk by Alliance’s Golden Valley Road four-plex, you see a clean, well-maintained building. Inside, it is filled with four families – stable, safe, and moving forward. Alliance’s Northside Supportive Housing for Families has achieved its mission.
It’s hard to believe that Patrick ever had a first chance. At the Alliance Breakfast in 2016 he shared the story of his life. He grew up in a family of drug abusers as role models. When he became an adult, he himself predictably struggled with drugs, addiction, and homelessness. He was fortunate to enter Alliance Housing in August of 2015, living at 2011 Pillsbury. Living there, he could save some money, due to the low rent. Eventually, about a year ago, Patrick moved from 2011 Pillsbury to his own Alliance studio apartment.
We caught up with Patrick recently, to see how life is going now that he has a studio apartment. Although he had use of the kitchen facilities at 2011 Pillsbury, there was no convenient storage for his food. Patrick lived on the third floor, and after a long day of work, he was too tired to go up and down the stairs to make dinner. Hence, Patrick had been “eating out every single meal”, which isn’t healthy, and is very expensive. He would generally wake up and leave for work, and just come home to sleep.
Now that Patrick has his own kitchen, he proudly stocks his fridge, cooks in large quantities and stashes the leftovers for the future. Sometimes he even brings his homemade lunch to work. He relishes the sense of independence he gets from taking care of this basic need for himself. He eats out far less, and when he does, thinks of it as a luxury, not a necessity.
What has Patrick done with the money he has saved by not eating takeout for every meal?
One of the reasons for Patrick’s homelessness in the first place was addiction, caused by trying to find a way to soothe his chronic back pain. Now, with the money he saves by eating at home more often, Patrick can afford massages. So instead of self-medicating with illegal drugs, Patrick is using massage to treat his chronic pain.
Also, one of Patrick’s passions is music. He plays guitar, bass, piano, and drums. And he sings. Until recently, however, he was distracted by his own “horrible singing.” With the money he is saving by eating at home, Patrick is taking singing lessons. He uses the words “spiritual” and “edifying” to describe how it feels to find his own, better voice.
All this from simply being able to prepare his own food in his own Alliance home.
By Tessa Williams.
For the men living at our Fremont property, finding a safe, affordable place to live has never been easy. Seven of our residents here came to us through Better Futures (Better Futures is an immersive program that gives men who have experienced prison, poverty, homelessness and untreated disabilities the training and resources they need to become independent). These men are now enjoying having their own apartment for the first time in their lives. I sat down with three residents, JT, Greg and Michael, to hear what having their own apartment means to them. Their responses shared common themes of safety, peace and quiet, freedom, pride and dignity.
“There’s a yearn for privacy, especially as you get older and start to get to know yourself,” says JT, now 40 years old. Growing up, he says, “I never had my own bedroom and at times had no bedroom.” For JT, having his own apartment gives him a sense of peace and tranquility. “You can come home to a safe space to be by yourself after a long day… You have the ability to relax and decorate your apartment and let it mean something to you.” JT’s previous living situations give him a strong appreciation for a safe, peaceful environment. In one place he lived after prison, he paid rent for six month but estimates that he didn’t sleep in his room for more than three nights because it didn’t feel safe. In another, he paid a woman with a cocaine addiction about $300 a month to live in what he called “a closet.” For men of color with a criminal record like JT, rental screening for safe housing so often forces them into dangerous housing situations, often in the same environment that got them in trouble in the first place.
Greg also mentioned peace and quiet as one of the positives in living at Fremont. He says having his own apartment makes it easier to focus on school. In June, Greg completed an associate’s degree in culinary arts at Le Cordon Bleu. By February, he will also have an associate’s degree in pastry. The other men at Fremont love that Greg is studying pastry because he frequently brings home sweets to share with them. Right now he’s doing an externship at Cookie Cart, a nonprofit bakery in North Minneapolis. Greg also enjoys having his own key to the building and the dignity of being able to come and go as he pleases without a curfew. At 53 years old, Greg doesn’t like to stay out late, but he still appreciates the freedom to set his own schedule.
Just down the hall, Michael says having his own room gives him more flexibility when looking for work. When he shared a bedroom at the Better Futures guest house, his roommate would be getting ready for work when he was getting ready for bed. Now Michael has the freedom to take night shift jobs that pay better and still sleep well during the day. Another benefit of living at Fremont, Michael says, is that “you don’t have to worry about your neighbors.” He likes that he knows the other men from Better Futures and that the guys look out for each other. But the change that mattered most to Michael was the confidence that came with paying rent. At 53, Michael had never had his own apartment, and he felt it was a stepping stone to adulthood he had yet to reach. “When it’s something you’ve never done, you’re really scared you’re going to mess up,” Michael said. After he paid his first month’s rent, Michael felt a huge weight lifted off his shoulders. After a few months, he says, it feels pretty manageable.
I asked Greg, JT and Michael where they see themselves in the future. Greg says he might move back to Chicago to take care of his mother in a few years. But as long as he stays in the Twin Cities, Greg sees himself staying at Fremont—the rent is the most affordable for what Alliance offers, and like Michael, he likes knowing his neighbors. JT is grateful for his apartment but aspires to own his own house. He recently started his own roofing and gutter business, and if business stays as good as it’s been lately, his dream could well become a reality. Michael says he would like to look into some programs self-improvement. While Greg, JT and Michael are all at different points in their lives, with different interests and aspirations, it’s clear that they all share an appreciation for a safe home and a second chance.
LaToya’s energetic spirit and hopeful attitude are contagious from the moment you meet her. She is a working mother who is passionate about making her neighborhood in North Minneapolis a safe and loving community for her children and neighbors. She is involved with community boards and plans to work on Keith Ellison’s campaign in the upcoming months, helping get her neighbors and friends registered to vote. She is in conversations with a community council about getting a youth center built in the Harrison neighborhood. LaToya has faith that North Minneapolis can and will become a thriving community, one where people can feel safe and friendly with their neighbors.
LaToya works at a printing and bindery company part time while going to school and is hoping to get a job at the Guthrie Theater in the upcoming months to have a shorter commute, better hours, and to help connect her friends with the arts. Her three children are doing well, with her oldest two getting straight A’s and helping get their younger brother off to school in the morning while LaToya is at work. She is grateful and proud that one of her daughters received a district scholarship to attend Space Camp in Houston, TX, a dream she has had for years.
Positivity is one of the many reasons LaToya is where she is today; getting to this place of hope hasn’t been easy. This March, she proudly celebrated one year with our Northside Supportive Housing for Families program (NSHF), and her many milestones and plans for the future show how much housing stability has made a difference in her life. Just over a year ago, LaToya was living in an abandoned house, unstable and afraid, with her children living with their grandmother. She recalls meeting with her son, unable to afford dinner at a restaurant so she took him to a soup kitchen instead, hoping he wouldn’t know the difference. After spending 40 days in a family shelter, she got a low wage job and applied for our NSHF program.
Since being in the program, with her coach Melanie’s encouragement, she has enrolled in a 12-week program at Twin Cities Rise that focuses on empowerment, employment readiness, and permanent full-time employment. Since completing the first session of the program in March, LaToya has developed a very supportive professional network at Twin Cities Rise and is looking forward to participating in a paid internship that may lead to full-time employment. She is thriving in the program and has a goal of becoming an empowerment coach herself.
LaToya will be the first to admit that it took her a while to even apply for the program at Twin Cities Rise. Two months into the program with Alliance, LaToya shut Melanie out—“I was still living in fear and didn’t believe I was really safe again. It really took the support from Alliance, when I did finally talk to Melanie, to realize that I no longer needed to be afraid.” Through Melanie’s persistent approach, LaToya began to trust her and started to believe things were going to be okay. With a year of housing stability, she has started letting go of her fear, and from that has come a fountain of hope. “Since I’ve let go of my fear, I’ve been doing so much better. Now I can say, let’s figure out what’s for dinner tonight, when a year ago I wasn’t even eating.”
LaToya’s hope is what keeps her going. As she says, “It hasn’t always been an easy ride,” but despite this she has kept moving forward. The changes she has been able to make in the past year give LaToya hope that she can continue on this path for success in her own life, while also playing her part in making her larger community a safe and loving place.
Selena has a lot to be proud of. She works full time as a Credit Advisor at Target Corporate, making $15.50 an hour, while raising her son, Sean, who just turned two in November. She graduated from Roosevelt High School in Gary, Indiana in 2011, has a degree in cosmetology, and moved to Minneapolis in May of 2014. In June 2014, Selena came to our program when she found herself without a home. Although she had experienced homelessness as a child, this was her first time encountering homelessness as an adult. While at the shelter, Selena met Melanie, who works with our Northside Supportive Families Program, and got accepted into the program, working at both Target and the Children’s Place for $8.20 an hour.
Unhappy with the late hours and low wage, Selena left her retail jobs for a position with Wells Fargo. After being with Wells Fargo for six months, she applied for a job with Target Corporate and got accepted to the position she now has, which she loves. Making nearly double what she earned at the start of the program, Selena has been able to pay off $1,000 in debt, while budgeting money to save for a car. She is proud to have raised her credit score, and that she has enough discipline to pay off what debt she still has left. Having the past experience of raising her credit score, she is calm despite recent bumps in the road, knowing that she has the skills needed to manage her money and get back to where she wants to be. She’s also started couponing, and managing her money makes her hopeful that she’ll be sufficient on her own.
One quote Selena goes by is, “think rich, look poor.” As she describes it, “Right now, (living this way), it’s only temporary— save, reach your goals to do what you dream of. Right now you don’t have to buy all of the fancy materials, but live within your means and plan for the future. I’m thinking for the future rather than living rich now. That’s what a lot of people do, I’m trying to do the opposite.”
Although she isn’t currently using her cosmetology degree, she is working on getting licensed in Minnesota so she can have the career she dreams of. She’s proud to be saving and building a cushion of stability through her career at Target, while watching Sean grow up and become “this new person”, a sometimes bossy two year old who loves the word “mine”.
More than anything, Selena is hopeful for stability. “I hope for stability, that’s all I hope for. I just want my kid to be in a good school and for me to be able to provide for the both of us.”
Sandra Mosley has been with Alliance Housing since 2007. She currently lives in one of the studio apartments, having come from one of the shared duplexes. She moved to Minneapolis from her hometown of Chicago in 1998.
Sandra was working at Mystic Lake seven years ago, and lost her job. She struggled with illness and surgery. She had no job and no place to call home. She was homeless, staying at 1010 Currie.
While working at a temp agency, she was sent to the Star Tribune on a work assignment. She was tired of working temp jobs and so asked a worker there if he would give her a reference. He agreed, and the next day she was called in for an interview which led to a part time job with the company.
One of her co-workers at the temp agency was renting a room with Alliance Housing and told her about us. She called Bob, (our south side property manager) and was offered a room where she lived for 5-6 years before moving into her own studio apartment. Sandra currently works full time at the Mall of America, and keeps a very tidy, comfortable, and homey place.
Sandra says; “I am blessed—Alliance Housing helps you keep housing, they are flexible and understanding. I am glad to be here, I appreciate them. When I was at my lowest, Alliance Housing was there for me. I want to say, Thank you.”
On 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.
Makeesha and her children have lived in an Alliance duplex in south Minneapolis since December 2009. Early on, Makeesha felt it was more important to raise her children attentively than work. She got by on a combination of MFIP, food support and one of the kid’s monthly disability payment. The budget was tight but they got by and kept current on their rent and other bills.
Once the kids were high school age, Makeesha decided it was time for a change. She got her GED, and found work at Mystic Lake, making about $11.50/hour in food service, 2nd shift. It was the first job she had in years, and she loved the sense of economic independence it gave her. The casino is a long way from home though. She could ride the shuttle bus to and from work for free, but at times it meant getting to work hours before her shift started, and she was fearful of walking home from the bus stop late at night. So, Makeesha purchased a new car to go with her new job. The payments were daunting but she loved the feeling that she had “made it”.
It wasn’t long before Makeesha started to think that she may have taken on too much, too fast. She struggled to keep up with the bills. She was involved in a car crash, totaled the car and was out of work for a time. Fortunately, Makeesha suffered only minor injuries and insurance paid off her car loan. Property manager, Bob Bono, worked with her on a rent payment plan until she got back on her feet.
As with most of our tenants who we give a little breathing room, Makeesha is back to work now, getting caught up with her rent. She has another car, old but affordable. The kids are doing well. The family is looking forward to the holidays and the new year. It may bring a few more bumps in the road of “making it on your own” but they feel optimistic they’re on the right track.
Greg Mure has lived at 2011 Pillsbury for 5 years. He said that renting a unit in Pillsbury “let him be a man” in the sense that he could support himself and have a place of his own. Greg spent a bit of time in the shelter before moving to Pillsbury. He disliked living with so many other men and being constantly on the watch for petty theft. Compared to that, his rental at 2011 Pillsbury feels like a palace. Greg feels like he is part of the booming economy in Minneapolis. He loves his neighborhood because it seems prosperous and most of the people moving around are working – like himself. Greg described the rooming house as “really quiet.” He and others have seen it not so quiet and they take pride in their attentiveness and working with their neighbors to keep the building safe and secure. Lastly, he offered that it is wonderful to be able to have a guest over to his place. “You canʼt do that if your address is 1010 Currie,” he offered with a sparkle to his eye.
You may remember Brenda from our 2012 Annual Report. Brenda as well as her husband and their two pre-teens moved into a 3-bedroom Alliance property from a shelter. Today Brenda’s husband is working as a cook and she continues her work at the Mall of America, where she recently received a raise and encouragement to apply for a leadership role during her review. The girls love their own rooms and the whole family appreciates moving off busy Broadway Avenue onto a quieter street.
Jontel, also featured in our 2012 Annual Report, will graduate from Culinary Arts School this June. With improved study habits, he is excelling in school receiving A’s and B’s in the most difficult courses. Jontel is now working part-time and has his three children 4 days each week. He is looking forward to graduating from school so he is able to work full-time and save some money. After moving from place to place, Jontel moved into Alliance Housing where he has now had stable housing for the past 3 years, which allows him the freedom to pursue his career and provide for his children.