Archive for the ‘Resident Stories’ Category

Seven men share one common story of a second chance.

Posted on: December 1st, 2016

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.

Tenant Profile: LaToya

Posted on: April 4th, 2016

Melanie & LaToya 1LaToya’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.

Tenant Profile: Selena

Posted on: December 8th, 2015

Selena and Shaun

 

 

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.”

Meet Our Tenant: Sandra Mosley

Posted on: November 10th, 2015

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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.”

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.

One Families’ Journey

Posted on: January 8th, 2015

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.

A Central Character

Posted on: October 15th, 2014

gregGreg 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.

Updates from Brenda and Jontel

Posted on: September 15th, 2014

Brenda-outsideYou 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.

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