Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Minnehaha Commons Update

Posted on: April 2nd, 2019

Despite the cold and snowy winter we are having in Minneapolis, Alliance’s newest building, Minnehaha Commons, is getting built.

The site comes with a sad history. In addition to a bar on the street level, the building had six apartments upstairs which housed 12 adults and seven children. On the morning of April 2, 2010, six people lost their lives in a fire. Ryan Richner, who worked at the bar, lived upstairs, and was giving shelter to his friend, Andrew Gervais, Gervais’ three young children, and Gervais’ mother. The family was planning on only staying one night. Because of this tragedy, the city’s worst fire since 1986, the Minneapolis City Council voted to overhaul its housing inspection program.

Consequently, it is with a real sense of commitment to safety and stability that Alliance Housing is building Minnehaha Commons. It will be good to rededicate the site, to provide safe, stable, accessible and affordable housing for very low-income people over age 55.

Excavation has been completed, and if you drive by 3001 East Lake Street you will see the foundation is laid, walls are going up, and it is beginning to look like a building. Soon the focus will be on the interior of the building, putting in a security system, and finalizing the interior design. The building will be home to 44 single adults with a history of homelessness.

Fortunately, there were no big surprises found during excavation, just an old water service pipe, and an old foundation wall, both of which were easily dealt with. Unfortunately, the frost depth in the Twin Cities is at 40 inches this winter, which has made it more difficult to accomplish some work below ground. Additionally, more delays have been caused by the weather, such as the time the contractor was scheduled to put up the big crane on site. The temperature was so low that day, the hydraulics in the crane would not work. And unfortunately, the heating bills and snow removal bills are higher than anticipated, but that’s true for all of Minneapolis this year. Everyone, including the general contractor, has been working overtime to keep the alley and sidewalks clear of snow, work around problems, and move forward.

Despite these issues, construction is on schedule. The contractor has been working diligently, staying on track for construction completion in October 2019. Soon an application process will be set up, with people to move to their new homes by December 2019. Alliance Housing is looking forward to opening the doors to our new residents and filling a need and an empty space in the Longfellow neighborhood.

The Benefit of Giving People a Second Chance

Posted on: April 2nd, 2019

Jorge has lived at Alliance Housing’s rooming house on Pillsbury for almost 3 years, since 2016. He is quiet and soft-spoken and enjoys reading spy thrillers and westerns in his free time. He has a positive and forgiving attitude, and is a valued Alliance resident. He respects his fellow residents, follows the rules, and pays his rent.

Jorge got out of prison in 2015. He spent a year in the Intensive Supervised Release program. His supervisor saw that Jorge was doggedly following the rules and recommended that he be put on regular parole. Now, instead of having to check in with his parole officer multiple times a week, Jorge sees his case worker once a month. Jorge is on the straight and narrow now that he has paid his debt to society. He says, “I can’t go back in.” He is also adamant about not returning to the life of drugs and alcohol.

When he was initially on parole, Project for Pride in Living sent him to St. Stephen’s where he met property manager Bob Bono, who encouraged him to apply to Alliance Housing. Bob saw Jorge as a good risk. Alliance Housing has a long history of screening people in to our housing. We want to give people a second chance, and therefore do not screen out prospective tenants due to past criminal history or bad credit. We have found that tenants that others reject are just as reliable as those without problems in their backgrounds. Jorge had to wait about 9 months for an opening, and Bob called him numerous times to get a hold of him. He really kept after Jorge to ensure that he got in.

When asked what his Alliance home means to him, he said, “It means life. I make sure I have a roof over my head. My priority is paying my rent and buying food. I have cable, but that can go away.” He is taking care of the “little big things” so that he can keep his home at the Pillsbury rooming house.

Jorge is originally from Cuba. He moved to Miami where he lived with an uncle and had a job as a cook. Although he cannot go back to Cuba, he keeps in contact with family there. He was visiting friends in Minneapolis when he met a girl and decided to move here. He has lived in Minnesota since 1981, residing in both St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Currently, Jorge works in the kitchen of a restaurant at the University of Minnesota. He really enjoys the job, which requires him to be active, moving, and always on his feet. He credits his active job, eating better, and losing weight to improving his health. His diabetes is under control, and he is down to taking only one pill a day to manage his health. Jorge sees that Alliance has given him a chance, a second chance to have a better life. He is resolved to make the best of it. He is happy in his Alliance home.

Seeing A Need & Taking Action

Posted on: April 2nd, 2019

Alliance Housing volunteer and donor, Tina Johnson, understands the devastation that happens when people lose their home. At her day job, Tina works for a company that does fabric restoration. She serves people who suffered a flood or fire in their home and need their belongings to be cleaned and restored. It’s a demanding job, but Tina is high-energy. She is also interested in helping others through volunteering.

Tina often travels for work, so she felt it would be hard to establish a routine as a volunteer. She was pleased to find that she could help Alliance Housing residents by assembling hygiene kits (soap, shampoo, and more) from home and on her own schedule. Tina loves to hunt for bargains and collects travel samples, too. In two years she has made over 50 hygiene kits for Alliance Housing residents. Tina also has helped clean up the Alliance database so that it is as accurate as possible.

The first time she came to Alliance to drop off the hygiene kits, she overhead a client say he needed underwear. At that moment, Tina knew she was giving her time and materials to the right organization. She now drops off her hygiene kits every few months.

Tina is also an enthusiastic aunt and godmother to two nieces, ages 6 and 4. She gave some thought to the question “How can I be a good godmother?” She decided to engage her nieces in making cold weather kits for homeless people, which included socks, handwarmers, gum, and peanuts. The trio set up an assembly line at Thanksgiving and had a lot of fun working together to help others.

When Tina was in college, she had the opportunity to study in London, England, and ended up working at Apex Trust, an organization that promotes employment as a route out of reoffending for people with a criminal record. This experience, and her work at Alliance, has made her think about how the criminal justice system needs to change, and that people need a second chance after paying their debt to society through incarceration. She loves that Alliance Housing, Inc. is all about second chances, and helping people to be more successful by keeping a roof over their heads.

Tina is a person that sees a need and steps up to help. Her work for Alliance Housing is meaningful to our residents, and to Tina. Thank you, Tina!

Knit 3 Together

Posted on: March 15th, 2018

If you are a knitter, it’s rare you see the direction “knit 3 together” in a pattern. It is also rare when people and purpose come together in a trio: generous knitters, Thrivent, and Alliance Housing.

Last year, Alliance donor steward Mariann Bentz asked fellow knitters if they would like to knit dish cloths for Alliance residents. More than 20 knitters eagerly participated, knitting over 200 dish cloths which were then donated to Alliance residents as gifts. One group, knitters at the Kenwood Retirement Community in Minneapolis, were especially lucky. When Martha, a relative of two members heard about the knitted donations, she was so impressed with the group’s generosity and industry that she applied for two Thrivent Action Grants. She secured $500 for the knitting group to spend on yarn. The group went shopping at a local yarn store, and have been busily knitting more dish cloths, but have also donated hand-knit hats, scarves, baby blankets, hand warmers, mittens, and slippers.

This is a rare situation where everyone wins. The knitters love to knit with the free yarn for a great purpose, enjoy the camaraderie of their weekly group, and feel great that their creations are helpful and being used. Thrivent sees that their donation is going to two good purposes – the Kenwood knitters and Alliance residents. And most importantly, Alliance residents benefit from the creations of the knitters; hand-knit creations that warm twice – once when they were made, and twice when they were given.

 

2016 Annual Report

Posted on: September 27th, 2016

Our annual report allows us to acknowledge all of our generous donors and reflect on our accomplishments of the past year. This year we share some important information on the success of our Northside Supportive Housing for Families program and highlight a growing need in the affordable housing world — aging adults.

Alliance 2016 Annual Report

 

Alliance AR Final cover

Patricia Anne Smith Neir Memorial

Posted on: September 1st, 2016

Longtime (& very active) Alliance Housing Board member, Fran Neir, and his wife, Patti Anne Smith Neir, made us the memorial beneficiary with Patti’s recent death.  We are humbled and grateful for the outpouring of love towards the Neir family and will steward the resources well helping single adults and families create stable homes for themselves and their children.  Stable housing is the foundation of accomplishing anything in one’s life.   All gifts will be formally acknowledged by Alliance and the list of donors shared with Fran.

Advocacy: Be the Change You Seek

Posted on: April 4th, 2016

Capitol gifAlliance Housing is excited to be engaged with this year’s legislative session for the first time as an active member of the Homes for All coalition as well as building our own 2016 policy agenda. At the forefront of this work, we are maintaining our people-centered approach and using our tenant’s hopes, challenges, and lived experiences as guiding points for our policy work.

Since August, we have been gathering stories from Alliance tenants and working with community developers, issues-based organizers, and advocates to identify where Alliance should be present and what we should be bringing to the table. One thing that has become clear through this work is that we are unique in our approach and practice, setting us apart while allowing us to help shift the larger conversations around the need for more second chance affordable housing in the Twin Cities. The conversations within these policy circles have helped us to identify our multifaceted approach, recognizing that we need to address the lack of funding for affordable housing while also working to lower barriers and bolster opportunities for success.

We have separated our legislative priorities into three categories: Bricks and Mortar, Access to Affordability, and Opportunities at Stability. To ensure Minnesota and Minneapolis invest in affordable housing, we work alongside cross-sector organizations through the Homes for All Coalition and Make Homes Happen MPLS. These coalitions work primarily statewide and citywide to show legislatures the need for more affordable housing. We are at these tables to share stories from our prospective, current, and former tenants, as well as sharing our unique approach to extremely affordable housing. Without a doubt, funding for affordable housing is key to keeping people housed.

There are many barriers that our tenants face when looking for affordable housing. At Alliance Housing we practice a second chance model, housing people regardless of their criminal, rental, or financial background. Included in our policy agenda, we are working to expand the housing market through several measures.

First, we are leading conversations with other affordable housing organizations to change the stringent screening practice that exclude people with imperfect records, especially people with felony records. We are also looking into ways to make evictions expungements after several years possible so that evictions do not stick with people forever. We see the way that harsh screening measures lock people out of housing, and we are working to ensure change in the affordable housing field so that more people have access to affordable housing.

Along with the measures directly relating to housing, we know this alone is not enough. We recognize that our tenants lives won’t be stabilized without fair wages and dignified treatment in the workplace, rehabilitative justice systems, and access to programs and supports for mental health treatment. Because of this, we actively support agendas including Prosperity for All, the Working Families Agenda, and the Second Chance Coalition.

Policy work is becoming an integral part of Alliance Housing’s mission of providing housing stability for very low-income individuals and families in Minneapolis. We are excited to be a part of larger coalitions working to improve the lives of those we serve, and we look forward to the year ahead to continue in conversation with others about the policy changes that would lower barriers for Alliance tenants and help them continue on paths to stability.

The Next Big Endeavor

Posted on: April 4th, 2016

1525_Elevation 3- 030416Alliance Housing prides itself on being a good landlord to people with barriers to stable housing and very low incomes. We manage and maintain our properties to be the “best on the block.” In addition, we’ve always been willing to tackle the more difficult redevelopment or construction projects to serve a target population–even at the risk of the process taking longer and generating less resources for ourselves. We do not need to do real estate development to survive; we do it to serve.

With recent transitions in leadership, Alliance decided to tap into the intelligence and insights of a broader group of people to help determine our next big endeavor. Beginning in November 2015, Alliance invited a group of people who have experience with real estate development, the needs and desires of homeless people and people with very low incomes, and tackling tough issues in new and different ways.

The group met twice to discuss needs and projects that align with Alliance Housing’s strengths and how to mitigate challenges and strategies to expand Alliance’s reach. Many thanks to board member Miranda Walker for chairing the group and Jim Fournier, Tamuno Imbu, David Jeffries, Ron Price, Sue Roedl, Stacy Becker, Chuck Riesenberg, Matthew Ayers and Troy Kester for sharing their time and insights.

The group produced five endeavor profiles that included real estate development projects to serve distinct community needs. Each profile also included one or more policy issues that would need attention to accomplish the endeavor. Surprisingly, many of the suggestions mimicked work that Alliance is already engaged in. It was an affirmation of our niche, serving very low-income families and individuals, and our declaration that more housing is needed to end the challenges that lead to homelessness and to keep families stably housed.

Here is a list of the five profiles with highlights from our existing tenants that indicate our strength managing the property and/or the need:

Homeless adults, aged 55+

Nearly 60% of Alliance’s rooms for rent are leased by men and women 55 years and older. They’ve brought stability to the properties, but many have physical and health challenges that make climbing stairs to use a shared kitchen or getting to a second or third floor unit difficult. This group is also a growing part of the shelter population–increasing from 12% of overall homeless adults in 2009 to nearly 24% in 2015.

Thomas is a 75-year-old tenant of Alliance’s property on Pillsbury. He climbs to the third floor every day and is that floor’s ambassador. Everyone knows him and appreciates his generosity. He spent three years living in his car before moving into his Pillsbury home. He has a fixed income from Social Security and a very old criminal record that were barriers to affording and finding other units. He’s ready for a little more privacy, and his health is making his climb to the third floor more difficult. An affordable studio, on a bus line in a building with an elevator, would be perfect.

Single adult men with kids who have barriers to housing and may or may not have formal custody

Andrew, a single dad and an art activist, was a tenant in one of Alliance’s rooms until March when he moved on to a bigger place. Prior to Alliance, he owned a home in Powderhorn for years before his house was foreclosed, leaving him with no rental history and therefore no access to options for housing. This had been the house he raised his kids in, who are now in high school. Despite being grateful for the room, it wasn’t large enough to have them stay overnight. After a year of the kids bouncing around with friends, he recently moved on to a larger place so he can provide a roof over their head. While the rent is more than he can afford, this is a sacrifice he is making to try and provide stability for his family once again. More affordable options for fathers with partial custody would have been the answer for Andrew.

Single adults (men and women) with extremely low incomes

Chaz was 26 years old when he moved in at Alliance’s rooming house on Pillsbury in 2014. He had been bouncing around from temp job to temp job, trying to keep his head above water, managing to maintain a positive attitude through it all. Given his history with homelessness, he was classified as long-term homeless and appeared to welcome the opportunity for stable housing with some services. During his tenancy at Pillsbury he always paid his rent on time and kept stable employment. In 2015, he landed a permanent position at McDonalds and was given the opportunity to be sent to their education program for managers. He has since moved on to a more private room at another Alliance property and no longer needs the services of our staff tenant service coordinator. If it wasn’t for the second chance Alliance offered, he may not be on the path to stability he is now on.

Homeless families with extremely low incomes

Brittany was 22 years old when she and her two-year-old daughter moved into Alliance’s Northside Supportive Housing for Families program and apartment. She was excited about the program because she really wanted to provide stability for her daughter since she had been homeless on and off since she was a teenager. Her cooking job at a casual restaurant paid only $8.75 an hour. It was difficult to get a lot of shifts because of her hour-long bus commute to work and limited childcare options. Despite Brittany’s low wage and difficulty getting enough hours, she has paid her rent on time for 16 consecutive months. She is proud to be experiencing her longest stay in one apartment and providing her daughter her own bedroom in a place they call home. Alliance’s program and property management offer Brittany the support and flexibility she needs to move on with her life.

Adults and families with low wages and barriers to housing who may or may not have been homeless and aren’t interested in a supportive housing program

Jennifer is a 31-year-old mother of four. She moved into one of our South Minneapolis 3-bedroom units in 2012. With her only income being public assistance she was determined to get on her feet, quickly realizing that public assistance would not pay the rent and bills. Shortly after being housed, she got a job as a personal care attendant. However, the job did not provide her with consistent hours or pay, and she continued to struggle with the rent, $685/month plus gas and electric, even though that’s at least 1/3 below market rates. Alliance worked with Jennifer, accepting partial rent payments throughout the month. She works hard to maintain her responsibilities to her children, her neighbors and Alliance Housing, despite the challenges of being a single parent. Despite the offer to be placed on a Section 8 waitlist, Jennifer is not interested. Although making all her bills on time isn’t always easy, she does not want any more subsidies. She’s determined to make it work on her own. Alliance is the kind of landlord that will support her to make it on her own.

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.

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.

Our New Year’s Resolutions…

Posted on: January 8th, 2015

Each year the Alliance Housing board of directors spends an August evening reflecting on its strengths and challenges and refining plans for the future. We have drafted a set of 2-3 year goals for the various parts of our work. Some are as straightforward as investigating new property management software to manage our rent records more effectively. Others are more aspirational and will take further research, conversation and decisions. For example, we believe that the Alliance Housing property management methods – relational, flexible, 2nd chance – would make a good policy agenda. The agenda could increase housing options in existing properties without having to build additional units. We’d like to develop leadership opportunities for our tenants in advancing the agenda.  We’d also like to preserve additional rooming house properties in Minneapolis. This will take more consideration, financial analysis and community conversations given the poor shape many of the properties are in and general neighborhood opinion and City code preferences to shut them down. While they aren’t “the” answer to affordable housing, at rents of around $330, they are a critical “piece” for low wage workers. If you have ideas you’d like to share or want to learn more about our plan, please call or email Barb.

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