- In our 624 units across our portfolio, 50% of our tenants have background issues that would have screened them out of other housing. and our tenants stay with us for an average of three years.
- Opened 3301 Nicollet, home to 64 individuals and small families with very low incomes and barriers to accessing housing.
- Secured full funding for Kyle Garden Square Apartments which will create homes for 59 individuals with histories of chronic homelessness.
- Formed a partnership with the Whittier Neighborhood Group to build 2116 Nicollet Ave Apartments, future home to 54 individuals, including 24 single room occupancy units for individuals transitioning from homelessness. Whittier Neighborhood Group and Alliance Housing will also co-locate our offices alongside the housing.
BETTY HYATT. Walking into Betty’s building on Penn Avenue, residents are greeted with beautiful curtains on the windows and furniture in the entryway, creating a welcoming atmosphere. Betty has lived in Alliance housing for four years, longer than most of the other places she’s lived in throughout her life. In that time, she’s put effort into making her building a pleasant space for everyone who enters. She utilizes her enjoyment of shopping and keen eye for interior design to make her building homey for herself and her neighbors.
Because Betty lives with a disability that impedes her ability to get around, she takes pride in creating an inviting home. She is the youngest of a large family and spent much of her
early adulthood helping care for her aging motherin-law in Florida. She fell into tough times, struggling with mental health issues and addiction, which made it difficult to care for herself and her children or maintain a stable home.
Betty shared that after a few years of couch hopping, she knew she “needed to stay the hell out of trouble”. She moved back to Minnesota and got help beating her addiction by spending some time in the Challenge Incarceration Program (CIP) in the Shakopee Women’s Correctional Facility. Upon her release she began to create a better life for herself and her youngest son Antwoin who lives with her.
Now Betty is 10 years sober. She is still battling health issues, but her stable home with Alliance has allowed her to get proper medical treatment and build a life for her family. She is proud of her son, who plays football and makes the honor roll at school. She looks forward to one day starting her own interior design business – which she has already named “BB’S Creative Design” – and becoming her own boss.
MARKYSHA WILSON. After growing up in foster care, Markysha set out on her own at 18 years old, wanting to forge her own path to her future. She spent years living in shelters, often in conditions that were not fit to live in. When she was able to attain an apartment of her own, Markysha faced accusations from her landlord, who charged her for damages she was not responsible for. Because she was also dealing with health problems, abuse from her domestic partner, and caring for her daughter, she knew she needed to move.
Markysha’s case worker introduced her to Alliance Housing in 2018, where for the first time, she encountered staff that were committed to helping her reach her goals. She recalls that Alliance members provided flexibility and support as she recovered from her abusive situation. When she made a mistake that ended in a 4-month period in jail, Alliance held her unit so she could return to a safe home and rebuild.
When Markysha’s Alliance unit became unsafe due to neighbor challenges, Markysha worked with Alliance staff to move to a new, stable home within Alliance’s portfolio. Markysha’s stable home has aided her as she keeps up with probation classes. The weight of uncertainty on her shoulders has lifted, and she anticipates continuing to grow toward her goals.
by Kali Saffert
Alliance is excited to announce that we will be partnering with the Whittier Alliance, Whittier’s neighborhood organization, to bring to life a new development at 2116 Nicollet Ave! The building will include low-barrier affordable housing, community meeting and event space, and office space for both Alliance and the Whittier Alliance.
After acquiring the vacant site in the spring of 2021, Whittier Alliance set out to determine how the space could be developed to best serve the community. And who better to ask then the community? Whittier Alliance spent the summer of 2022 conducting outreach to determine the needs and desires of the Whittier community, specifically focusing on residents who live within four blocks of 2116 Nicollet. Environmental sustainability and affordable residential space ranked at the top of people’s desires. With the knowledge that Alliance’s mission statement and values aligned with both the goals of Whittier Alliance and the goals of the community, we submitted a proposal to partner with Whittier Alliance and were selected as their partner.
Our building is designed specifically with our community in mind. It will include a mix of affordable single room occupancy units, efficiency units, and one-bedrooms. The first floor will feature community meeting space and both the Whittier Alliance and Alliance Housing offices.
Officing in the same building as our tenants will tell the story of our mission. Sharing space with our residents will allow staff, visitors, and residents to connect around our shared goal of inclusive, affordable, relational, and flexible housing. Every day, we will be able to see our mission and values in action. Sharing an office with Whittier Alliance is not only an eco-friendly office solution, but we will also be better able to collaborate with each other.
We’ll share updates over the coming months as we apply for funding, finalize building plans and begin construction. This marks the exciting start of a new chapter for Alliance!
By Eva Schmidt, Executive Assistant
Like most of us, Greg Mure never thought he would be homeless. After struggling with a series of unexpected challenges in 2006, he found himself sleeping on a park bench in South Minneapolis with his belongings in bags. The next morning, when he awoke, he saw that his bags had been ripped open, and several men around the park were wearing his clothing. One of them, seeing his confusion, commented, “You haven’t been homeless before, have you?”
Taking him under his wing, this gentleman taught Greg some strategies for surviving on the streets. In addition to getting a hot meal with the gentleman, he found his way from the shelter to Alliance Housing and a room at 2011 Pillsbury. Seventeen years later, he has upgraded his accommodations, but he still calls his Alliance building home. Greg is the longest-continuing tenant in any Alliance building.
To this day, Greg still remembers the feeling of getting his key. He recalls the comfort he felt when he was able to plug in his phone, to take a shower, and wash his clothes. Having stable housing allowed him to piece his life back together. He was able to secure a job working security detail at the University of Minnesota. There, he wound up escorting Brett Favre to the press box, Queen Latifah to her dressing room, and Mick Jagger to the stage.
All those encounters, however exciting, paled in comparison to the pride he felt when he was able to buy a car. Greg uses the vehicle around town, but he also uses it as a food shelf volunteer. He drives boxes of food to neighborhood food shelves, and he gives rides to the people carrying those boxes back to their homes.
Not long after finding his place on Pillsbury, Greg was asked to serve on the Alliance Board because of his ability so share his lived experience related to our mission. While on the board, Greg thoughtfully presented tenant perspectives, even when it was difficult. Sharing his perspective pushed Alliance’s leadership to wrestle more thoughtfully with tricky issues like rent increases, eviction policies, and expansion plans. He respectfully informed board members of the impact that these changes would have on residents, while also understanding the need to chart a sustainable path for the organization. Greg has aspirations of buying his own building to donate to Alliance to create another opportunity for stable housing.
Today, Greg feels far from that day he woke up on a park bench in south Minneapolis. He takes great pride in his apartment, and in the work he has done to fix it up. The hallways are freshly painted. He upgraded the bathroom. He even found a place for his piano—he’s a self-taught pianist and plays with and for his neighbors. Alliance may have created the housing, but he has truly made it his home.
Written by Ben Olk, Board Member
Jerel Stimpel is one of our newest residents. The 28 year-old cook and photographer moved into his apartment earlier this spring and so far, he’s settling in nicely. When asked about his favorite part of the unit, he answers quickly: “The kitchen.” His favorite meal to cook? Southern comfort food, or a New York strip steak with all the sides. Every Sunday, he and his family gather for dinner. Now that he has his own place, he is looking forward to hosting family dinner soon.
Before finding a home with Alliance, Jerel was in a situation many of our residents are familiar with. After leaving a toxic relationship, Jerel found himself without a place to live and without the resources to secure one. He spent the year living almost entirely out of his car. “Where I was living was uninhabitable,” he says.
However, between paying off debt, building credit, keeping his car running, renting hotel rooms for freezing winter nights, and buying other necessities like food, Jerel had no money left for a security deposit to secure housing. “People are feeling some type of way, I was feeling down,” Jerel said. Dealing with the compounding trauma of the pandemic, police brutality, and homelessness took a toll on Jerel. Despite being unhoused, Jerel held down a job consistently throughout the year, working as a cook at local restaurants and catering companies. He also got involved with Creative MPLS, a multipurpose recording and photography studio, as a photographer and videographer.
Eventually, a Hennepin County case worker referred Jerel to Alliance. He met with an Alliance Property Manager who worked with him to understand the process of moving in—from knowing exactly how much to save for the security deposit to budgeting for rent. Working with a property manager who understood his situation made all the difference. Within a few months he was ready to move in. Soon after, Jerel’s brother, who had also been experiencing homelessness, was also able to move into the same building. For Jerel, having his brother live across the hall “[is] a reason to get up every day.”
Now that he is settled into his new home, Jerel plans to continue pursuing his two passions: cooking and photography. He will be continuing to work with Creative MPLS, setting up his own LLC, and selling his own food. When asked about what he wants to tell others about affordable housing and the work that Alliance does, Jerel says “It gets better, there is help.”
By Eva Schmidt, Executive Assistant
Ebony started working with Alliance Housing in January 2022 as our part-time Housing Operations Assistant. Ebony is a bright light on the Alliance team, growing in her contributions every day. After six months in the role, Ebony moved to full-time, adding administrative responsibility for processing our donations. After another six months, Ebony was promoted to Assistant Property Manager, taking on leasing our units designated for individuals leaving homelessness.
Ebony is a great cheerleader for her teammates and is deeply committed to our mission of providing low-barrier affordable housing. Safe, affordable housing has been critical in Ebony’s life as she navigates single parenting three boys.
Ebony shared with her colleague Eva, “I am happy to serve in a space where the need of the homeless population is our number one priority.”
By Jessie Hendel, Executive Director
Earlier this spring, Alliance hosted the grand opening of our newest property: a 64-unit apartment at 3301 Nicollet Ave. Community members, board members, staff, and city and county officials gathered on April 20th to celebrate! Together, we toured the property, learned about the design and construction process from architect Paul Gates, and heard from residents and project leaders about the impacts of the project. We’re excited to provide more affordable housing for people who need it in a brand-new, eco-friendly building.
When Alliance first purchased the land in 2017, we knew from prior experience that bringing the building to completion would be complicated—the process includes acquiring funding, drafting and finalizing building plans, and undertaking construction. But we didn’t know that this would all take place during a pandemic, adding to the complications.
When designing 3301 Nicollet, Alliance’s vision was to provide environmentally sustainable brick-and-mortar housing solutions to address homelessness in the Lyndale neighborhood. Of the 64 units, 24 are reserved for individuals transitioning out of homelessness, providing access to housing for individuals transitioning out of homelessness is a critical part of Alliance’s mission. Individuals can also access on-site supportive services provided by AVIVO. The remaining 40 units are reserved for adults and small families earning 30% to 50% of the Area Median Income (AMI).
3301 Nicollet includes eco-friendly linoleum flooring, bike storage, EV charging stations, and rooftop solar panels. Providing sustainable and affordable energy in our new buildings is crucial. Using renewable energy creates positive environmental impacts, but also it also reduces energy costs for the building, savings which get passed on to tenants. Sustainability both aligns with our values and is increasingly a funder requirement.
Leasing for the property began in December 2022. By the time the grand opening rolled around in March 2023, only 3 of the 64 units were vacant, with two more move-ins happening later that week. While we are thrilled that the building is full, it is clear we need even more affordable housing in Minneapolis.
At the Grand Opening event, one of 3301 Nicollet’s first tenants Toni Thompson spoke during the program. She said, “I have not had access to stable housing for the last 10 years. During this time, I struggled with depression. I am thrilled to have my own place and begin to work on some of my goals around stabilizing my mental health and reconnecting with family.”
By Eva Schmidt, Executive Assistant
The Whittier Alliance (WA) neighborhood organization in Minneapolis and Alliance Housing Inc have established a new partnership to bring low-barrier affordable housing, community meeting and event space, and new office space for both organizations to the vacant site at 2116 Nicollet Ave. The acquisition of the space by Whittier Alliance in the spring of 2021 was inspired by a long-time intention of the organization to purchase and activate property for community benefit, while striving to meet other goals along the way related to housing, community engagement, support for Whittier’s important commercial corridors, and organizational sustainability.
In the fall of 2021 after a competitive application process, WA convened a volunteer steering committee of residents both with deep knowledge of the community and subject matter expertise in development-related fields to define the vision/values/goals for the site, develop a process for community engagement, draft and release a Request for Proposals (RFP), and ultimately, to make a recommendation to the WA Board of Directors for the preferred development partner from the proposals received.
Community engagement work throughout the summer of 2022 further clarified the priorities that residents and other nearby stakeholders wanted to see most in the project, including sustainability features that reduce environmental impact and facilitate sustainable living; creative place-keeping features that create a sense of community identity within the building and reflect the Whittier community; and urban design features that enhance the characteristics of Nicollet Avenue and the Eat Street Commercial Corridor through human-centered design.
Through the RFP process, Whittier Alliance was thrilled to select Alliance Housing Inc as their partner in this important project after clear demonstration of an alignment in values, objectives, and organization mission.
Alliance Housing Inc’s work makes it possible for individuals and families to create homes for themselves, regardless of income and background by developing and managing housing that is:
- relational, and
In addition, Alliance Housing challenges the environment that limits our residents’ opportunities.
Alliance Housing creates affordable, low-barrier housing that is accessible to all members of the community. The new project at 2116 Nicollet will be a mixed use building housing 54 units of affordable housing and approximately 4,200 square feet of leasable commercial space and a community meeting space, that will be shared by Whittier Alliance and Alliance Housing. Single adults will occupy the mix of single room occupancy (SRO), efficiency, and one bedroom units. The first floor space will welcome neighborhood residents in for a variety of neighborhood focused events and meetings.
Whittier Alliance and Alliance Housing Inc acknowledge that the Whittier neighborhood and this site are on the stolen ancestral lands of the Dakota people and recognize the resiliency of our Indigenous, Black and other marginalized community members amid centuries of ongoing, state-sanctioned violence and oppression. As we move ahead to the design phase of the project, we remain committed to facilitating avenues for robust community participation, as well as to operating within an anti-racist, anti-oppression and equity framework, prioritizing the voices of historically underrepresented people, populations, and communities.
Full project background and a sign up for ongoing, project-specific communications are available at whittieralliance.org.
Kaley Brown, Whittier Alliance Executive Director
Jessie Hendel, Alliance Housing Inc Executive Director
64-unit property includes 24 units for formerly homeless
What: Grand Opening Celebration
When: Thursday, April 20, 4:30 to 6:00 p.m.
Where: 3301 Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55408 (parking on Nicollet Ave and side streets)
What: Program at 5:15 p.m.; guided tours before and after program
Questions or interviews: Please contact Alliance Housing Executive Director Jessie Hendel at 612-879-7633 or firstname.lastname@example.org
3301 Nicolllet includes 51 studios and 13 1-bedroom units affordable to adults and small families earning 30% to 50% of the Area Median Income (AMI). It also includes a community room, bike storage, rooftop solar panels, and other sustainability features.
The property, which began leasing in December 2022, provides housing for workers earning $15 to $20 an hour and includes 24 units reserved for people transitioning from homelessness. Alliance is working with social service provider Avivo to provide case management and administer rent support for formerly homeless tenants.
Funders of the $16.3 million project included the City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines, and US Bank Community Development. Acquisition and pre-development funding was provided by Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation and Propel.
Alliance Housing is a nonprofit owner and developer of affordable housing based in Minneapolis. It owns nearly 600 units of housing, including four apartment buildings. Founded in 1991, Alliance Housing develops and manages housing that is inclusive, affordable, relational, and flexible, making it possible for individuals and families to create homes for themselves regardless of income.
Alliance Housing has 14 properties in South Minneapolis all of which have received property tax exemptions for the last 9+ years. These tax exemptions are a key component that allows it to keep rents affordable for low-income tenants. In 2019, Alliance’s re-application for property tax exemptions was denied by the City of Minneapolis. With the pro bono assistance of Faegre Drinker Biddle and Reath, this decision was appealed. It is hoped that the court will reinstate the property tax exemptions during the first half of 2023. Thanks to Adam Pabarcus and Natalie Stubbs for their tireless work on this case.
In 1996, Greg suffered a gunshot wound to his spine that left him partially paralyzed and in a wheelchair. Greg’s life had been full of guns, drugs, and criminal activity. Greg came from Atlanta to Minnesota where he ended up in a shelter during COVID-19. While at the shelter, Greg worked hard to find a job, housing, and find long-term stability. However, with his criminal record, no one would give him a chance. Things turned around when he was approved for Supplemental Security Income, and his Case Worker was able to get him a single room at Alliance Housing’s 2011 Pillsbury building.
Greg said that, at age 54, his room at Pillsbury is the first time in his life he has ever had a lease. He feels that staff treats him well and help him when needed. When Greg moved into Pillsbury, the only unit open was the third floor. Greg said, “no problem. I want out of the Shelter—I can do this.” There is not an elevator at the Pillsbury building. With the sheer strength of his upper body, Greg got up the steps to his home. Months later he was able to transfer to the second-floor room and continued to get up those steps. Finally, this Spring, Greg moved into a first-floor unit.
Please join Alliance Housing’s staff in wishing Michael Bobick, our Caretaker and Maintenance technician, a happy 70th Birthday in
Michael is an example of Alliance’s mission at work. Michael has lived at our 2103 2nd Avenue building for 30 years, since before we even owned the property! He started working for Alliance in 1996 as a part-time Caretaker. Over the years this has grown into a full-time role that includes some maintenance responsibilities.
Michael’s story is like many of our tenants. As a young adult, Michael was working to become independent and support himself. He was struggling with alcoholism, which was pervasive in his childhood. He experienced homelessness as a young adult. Luckily, Michael found housing and soon employment at his 2nd Avenue address.
Michael likes making Alliance sleeping rooms feel like home for our tenants. He takes great care to manage our furniture stock to ensure tenants have what they need, particularly when moving out of homelessness into an Alliance home. Michael is also known for keeping flowers and plants in bloom at his home on 2nd Avenue and values changing the perception of housing for individuals moving out of homelessness. Michael is a key part of Alliance’s commitment to make it possible for individuals and families to create homes for themselves. Alliance is grateful for Michael, his strong work-ethic, and his commitment to our mission. Alliance is so lucky to have Michael on its team!
This spring, Tiffany Simmons, an Alliance Property Manager, helped a tenant move into one of Alliance’s buildings. This tenant knew exactly what he wanted to do first after settling into his room — take a nap. This seemingly simple act, resting, is difficult without a safe place to stay. And difficulty attending to basic needs such as sleeping, preparing food, and hygiene creates profound impacts on a person’s life.
The individuals and families Tiffany works with each have their own stories, but they’ve all experienced challenges finding housing in the Twin Cities. Alliance works to change that by building and maintaining housing that is affordable to the tenants, working with them as they transition into new housing, and advocating for policies that increase access. Alliance believes everyone deserves stable and quality housing.
Tiffany says the new tenant is now working and saving money. “To see where people started from, and where housing has given them stability to further some of the other goals that they have set, really makes me smile,” she says. After the first year, 56 percent of tenants who live in Alliance housing increase their income. Alliance’s focus isn’t just on financial return though, but also on the social and personal impacts stable housing creates in people’s lives.
Alliance is focused on people — not just meeting their individual needs, but also recognizing how they interact with systemic barriers. Rather than focusing on the difficulties tenants may have had in the past as the cause of their housing instability, Alliance looks at the structural barriers that exist in the market, such as large security deposits, denying housing based on criminal histories, and over reliance on rental histories. This gives Alliance a unique framework — moving away from the common concept of “low-income” affordable housing, and toward a “low-barrier” approach that reflects the organization’s responsibility to the community to provide housing that is affordable, accessible, and dignified.
Every other year, Alliance surveys tenants’ experiences living in Alliance housing and the global policies that affect their lives. Data from these surveys have revealed a nexus of needs that go along with access to a stable home, things like childcare, food access, and transportation. Although Alliance can’t provide services that address all of these needs, their relationships put them in a unique position. “Because we’re relatively small, we can really understand tenant stories and tenant experience,” says Jessie Hendel, Alliance Housing Executive Director. “We can then bring forward that direct experience into an advocacy role.”
Alliance’s advocacy work has shifted what low-barrier housing looks like in Minneapolis. One model of housing Alliance provides is single-room occupancy. This kind of housing often works well for people who have been living outside. “For somebody that never had housing, or struggles with housing, or struggles with chemical dependency, sometimes maintaining a whole studio is hard,” Tiffany says. Minneapolis ordinances once made it illegal to rent single occupancy rooms, but Alliance successfully lobbied to change that when they saw the model worked for so many people.
Tiffany has seen the long-term effects housing has for people, feeling secure in their housing and saving money helps residents imagine other possibilities for growth. She recalls the tenant she moved in last January, “You know,” she says, “he’s thinking about going back to school.” That’s just one tenant of many who came to Alliance searching for simple rest — and is now dreaming about the future.
Building on Alliance’s success at
Minnehaha Commons – housing
older adults who had been
homeless – we knew we had to do
more to reduce the homeless adult
population. We began talking with
Touchstone Mental Health two
years ago to conceptualize a similar
project for younger adults. At the
same time, we were approached by
a building owner near HCMC who
had heard of our good works. They
wanted to repurpose their 4 story
1920s era downtown property from
office space to affordable housing.
We jumped in and began applying
for public capital dollars.
Within one full year of funding
cycles we were awarded all of the funds
necessary to renovate the building into
55 apartments. Many thanks
to the Federal Home Loan
Bank of Des Moines, Hennepin
County, the City of Minneapolis,
the Metropolitan Council and
In addition to the capital funding,
we have commitments from
Hennepin County and the
Minneapolis Public Housing
Authority for rent assistance for
Touchstone has the
contracts and expertise to bring
along money to pay for their
services to tenants. In the coming
year, we hope to add funding to
pay for a front desk through the
Housing Urban Development
Continuum of Care programs. Over
the next year, we’ll work through
the financial closing due diligence
process and begin renovation in
The affordable housing crisis
has been atop many legislative
and policy efforts over the last
few years. The data is clear: the
the gap between rents and income
continues to widen and more
families find themselves with
unstable housing, or unhoused,
or stressed by paying too much of
their income towards rent.
Alliance Housing is small but
mighty in our coalition-based
housing advocacy. During the
current Minnesota legislative
session, we’re focused on two
efforts. In past years, our advocacy
work with Homes for All MN
has garnered $100 million in
housing infrastructure bond (HIB)
authorization by the MN Legislature.
These resources are essential to
fund the type of housing Alliance
owns and managers for very low
income and low-wage earners.
Given the State’s 2022 surplus and
the size of the housing problem,
this year the group is asking for
$2 billion in resources to create
and preserve homes and to create
more access to affordable housing
with rent and homeownership
assistance. Minnesotans of color
are disproportionately affected by
the housing crisis. The investment
will reduce disparities and expand
Right now, please take
the opportunity to talk with your own elected officials about how
people you know are affected by
the affordable housing crisis and
ask them to support $2 billion for
housing. If you’d like to get involved
in future policy alerts and efforts
look for Homes for All MN tweets or
posts to their Facebook page.
For the past couple of legislative
sessions, we’ve also partnered
with Beacon Interfaith Housing
Collaborative and 80 some other
housing developers and service
providers to advocate for rent
assistance for very low-income
households through Bring it Home
MN. Current programs like Section 8
only fund 1 of 4 families that qualify.
With rents increasing over the
last 10 years, families are simply not able
to afford rents with what they are able to earn.
Rent assistance would help keep
more families stable so they could
retain employment and do lots of
other good things in their lives.
Again, look for alerts on Twitter and
other social media.
Jessie Hendel’s first day as the
Executive Director for Alliance
Housing Inc. was March 8. Our
board of directors began this search
process last summer after Barb
Jeanetta announced her retirement
plans. With plenty of time to plan,
the board cast a wide net. For
nearly a year, board members have
been talking to a varied group of
people about what we were looking
for and who might be interested.
The early work paid off and Alliance
received nearly 20 high-quality
candidate resumes. Between
October 2021 and January 2022, the
the board did a series of interviews to
arrive at their offer to Jessie.
As a trained social worker, Jessie
Hendel has spent the majority of
her professional career working
to provide safe, affordable, and
sustainable housing for youth,
families, and individuals. Her
commitment to these values directly
aligns with Alliance’s relationship-based property management focus.
Her passion, warmth, and expertise
will serve our residents, staff and
stakeholders well as we look to
the future. Jessie looks forward
to connecting with all of Alliance’s
donors, investors, and allies in the
coming months to learn more about
their connections to the work of
Jessie worked at CommonBond
Communities, a highly respected
affordable housing developer,
owner and manager in various
management, program and
operational roles for 17 years.
Most recently, she directed a
variety of programs at the YWCA
of Minneapolis. As was true of all
of the past Directors of Alliance
Housing, this will be Jessie’s first
time in the role of Executive
Director. It was obvious from
interviews that she is familiar with
and attached to Alliance’s mission,
and is inspired to do a great job
leading the organization into the
Every now and then, we take a look at why people move out of our
apartments. Recently, in analyzing vacancies in our scattered-site
apartments, we discovered that more than ½ of our tenants moved because
they found “equal or better” housing elsewhere. At Alliance, we count it as
a success if our tenants find better housing. Not only do they move up and
move on, but it means another household will be able to move into one of
our very affordable quality units. To give you a sense of what better housing
means, we reflected on some past moves that we’ve reported on before,
and some more recent ones.
In the 2021 Annual Report, we covered the story of Cindy Arnold, who
moved through our rooming house (several times), then on to a studio
apartment, and bought a house a year ago. Cindy is a testament to our belief
that a person can change and should not be judged by their worst day.
Two more success stories come from families that were original participants
in our North Side Supportive Housing for Families program between 2012-
Gloria lived in an Alliance duplex for nearly four years before pulling
together the resources to buy her own home. She shared her story with
our 2017 fundraising breakfast guests. At the breakfast, Gloria thanked
Sue Roedl, program manager, for encouragement and coaching. Gloria added
“access to affordable housing gave me the time to get back on my feet and
prepare to move on with my family’s lives.”
Irena lived in an apartment at 3631 Penn for 8 years. She moved this past
November to a bigger apartment in a better neighborhood with her family.
Alliance allowed her to build a good rental history and manage her budget
over the years so that she could save for this move up.
One of our Pillsbury rooming house residents, Dustin,
was able to move out and move on in 2019 when he
got a Section 8 voucher for an apartment with his
own bathroom and kitchen. Before finding housing
with Alliance, Dustin was homeless for at least three
years. When Dustin first moved into the rooming
house, he had problems with drinking, partying with
drunk friends, and disturbing his neighbors. Property
manager Bob Bono repeatedly redirected bad behavior
back towards lease abiding expectations. Without the
stability of his Alliance home and repeated chances
around expectations, it is doubtful that Dustin would
have been able to achieve this new stage of housing
stability for himself.
There are many more stories like this over the years.
And just in the last few months, two tenants moved
on to better housing opportunities – one created by
Alliance and another who created his own.
Pat has rented from Alliance Housing Inc. since April
2012. His first home was a sleeping room. When the
opportunity arose, Pat moved to 2103 2nd Avenue S,
giving him the additional amenities of his own kitchen
and bathroom. He works twelve-hour days with a
company that picks up junk for a fee, sells and recycles
it. Pat noted and advised that “ I stick to myself. You
can’t make other people’s problems your problems.”
Pat recently provided notice that he was moving. He
bought a tri-plex in South St. Paul. Pat said that
owning his own place, “gives him more control over
his living environment.” He said he had the idea to buy
something for a while. A friend who is a lawyer and
broker gave him some guidance and encouraged him
that he had sufficient money and credit. He eventually
plans to buy a house to live in and use the tri-plex as
income. We have no doubt that he will.
Curtis moved from 143 E. 19th Street in November
2021 to 2103 2nd Ave – a sleeping room to a studio.
Whenever there is an opening in one of Alliance’s
studios – either in our larger properties or in the
scattered-site portfolio – we offer them to tenants in
sleeping rooms who have sufficient income to pay rent
and have demonstrated that they can be lease abiding.
Prior to moving into our 143 E. 19th Street property in
December 2020, he spent some time in jail, sleeping
in his car, at a shelter, and in hotel rooms. Curtis says
that while he appreciated the sleeping room to being
homeless, “I don’t like it that everyone doesn’t have
the same cleaning standards as me.” The first night he
moved in at 2nd Ave., he did something he hadn’t been
able to do before – cook a meal and take a bubble bath.
He loves his new place.
All of Alliance’s units offer permanent housing, not
time-limited temporary housing. Nonetheless, we’re
always gratified when someone moves on to equal or
better housing. They create an opportunity for someone
new, who may need a 2nd chance, to create a home for
Alliance Housing’s policy advocacy work had some successes this past year. In some ways, the pandemic has provided more access to elected officials by video chat and more focus on tenant protections. Minneapolis Councilmember Cam Gordon saw the value of single room occupancy (SRO or to us sleeping rooms) from a cost perspective and as part of the housing puzzle almost immediately upon learning about them from Alliance Housing. He was already a fan of shared housing having passed the intentional community legislation to address some challenges of student housing in the University neighborhoods. Councilmembers Cam Gordon, Jeremy Schroeder and Lisa Goodman convened a study group of industry professionals and City staff and crafted a new ordinance that once again allows new SRO rental licenses in Minneapolis within certain parameters and management. They had been banned for 15+ years after a lot of trouble with poorly managed properties.
Tandem to the City of Minneapolis efforts, Hennepin County staff also took on advocacy of SRO housing policy as a value added to the area’s housing supply. Julia Welle Ayers, a Housing Development and Finance Director in Hennepin County’s Housing and Economic Development department, convened a group of nonprofit developers, City and County staff and private sector developers and architects over a 9 month period to craft a policy framework. The committee was the brain child of former Commissioner Opat. The SRO policy framework was adopted by the County board in October and offers guidance to cities in the County who wish to open up planning processes for the addition of SRO housing. In addition, Hennepin County purchased four buildings in 2020 to ultimately convert to SRO housing. This included the Stevens Square Residence, which Alliance Housing already operates as SRO housing under a lease from Hennepin.
Alliance believes the new ordinance will increase the number of well managed and affordable sleeping rooms in Minneapolis and Hennepin County above and beyond the flexibility it offers its own efforts. Both Hennepin and Minneapolis allocated ARP Act funds to develop additional SRO housing.
The more things change, the more they stay the same and build for the future. We’ve mentioned pending staff transitions over the past year. Bob Bono, 20+ year property manager, has reduced his time to 3 days per week and will fully retire in the next 6-8 months. He is focused on preparing Tiffany, Samantha and Gus to carry on the “Alliance way.” Barb Jeanetta, Director, will retire by June 30, 2022. The board has a recruitment and hiring process underway.
When Alliance Housing looks for new staff, we look for people that “get” our tenants – either through personal experience, work experience or personal attributes. The mechanics and law of property management can be taught and learned. Tiffany Simmons joined Alliance in October 2020. She had previously worked at Better Futures MN with men coming out of prison. She took on many roles there, including assisting with lease-up of Great River Landing, a new residence built by Beacon Interfaith Collaborative for Housing for men coming out of prison – including the Better Futures participants. Alliance hired Tiffany to manage its housing funder compliance reporting and to lease up and manage Stevens Square Residence. “Tiffany transitioned easily into both roles,” says Barb. “She sets clear and positive expectations of tenants and has no problem holding them accountable.”
Gus Weah Jr. joined Alliance in July 2021 after several months of unsuccessful recruitment of experienced maintenance workers. Gus came with private sector maintenance work but the mission focus of Alliance appealed to him. Bob says, “Gus jumped right in to a list of deferred work orders. When perplexed by tenant behavior, he looks for advice.” Gus is comfortable with a work routine that sometimes gets interrupted by more priority tasks and has strong computer skills which will be an asset with Alliance property management and maintenance software.
After Tamuno Imbu left for a promotional opportunity at PPL, Samantha Giarrusso was hired in September 2021. Samantha arrived with 5+ years of property management experience in the private sector where she managed at least one affordable housing property. “Tiffany and Samantha have good chemistry and work well together,” says Barb. Tiffany noted, “between Samantha and I, we ask Bob a million questions a week. We want to learn all we can from him before he retires.”
A million dollar gift from an anonymous donor made Alliance’s dream come true to make more affordable rental housing available by increasing its scattered site housing portfolio. The donor was introduced by a volunteer/donor/colleague and immediately liked Alliance’s management style and ability to finance its properties in a way that allowed very low income households, many needing a 2nd chance, to create a home for themselves.
Over the last 1 ½ years, Alliance has purchased two properties with the anonymous donor equity and a small mortgage from Sunrise Banks. Sunrise Banks helped Alliance finance some of its very first properties in South Minneapolis and made a mortgage loan based on a long time relationship – both in banking and lending. In the future, Alliance plans take-out the equity and loan dollars with government soft debt and have capital to invest in additional properties.
We’ve previously reported on the purchase of 3416 Park Avenue from Park Avenue United Methodist Church in June 2020. It is a stately Victorian building that we’ve completed a significant facelift on with new siding, porch repairs and a full paint job. Alliance has also completed some not quite so visible inside repairs and will soon rehab kitchens up and down. Part of the anonymous donor’s capital aided the renovations.
The building was already home to 5 resettled African refugee men who each rent a room on the 2nd and 3rd floors and a family on the first floor. We kept rents of both at the same very affordable rate as offered by the church. The men work low wage jobs nights, pay their rent mostly on time and manage their shared living arrangement. Due to a voluntary move-out of the family, we were able to do some additional maintenance and repairs on the first floor and just moved in a new family. Samantha, our newest property manager exclaimed “it’s just beautiful” on her first visit. All units as they become vacant will offer an opportunity to one of the 750+ households on our interest list of completed applications.
Our newest acquisition, 2924 35th Avenue, is just a few blocks from Minnehaha Commons in the Longfellow neighborhood. It is a tidy 6 unit property built in the 1960s. The building was fully occupied – 5 two bedroom and 1 one bedroom apartments. As with Park, we’ll leave the rent structure as is. As units become vacant, it will offer an opportunity to some of the families on our interest list. In our existing portfolio, family units rarely open – our families know a good deal when they have one.
Two existing tenants offered some information to give you a sense of who has now become an Alliance tenant. Suzie has lived in the Longfellow neighborhood all but 10 of her 73 years. She has lived at 2924 35th Avenue for over 20 years and feels like it is part of her extended family. Suzie said, “So as you can guess I love this neighborhood.” She noted that there is another tenant in the building whose mother lived there for 30 years. When she had to move to a nursing home, her son took over the apartment. Suzie offered, “During the riots this last summer, we took care of ourselves.” The photo is of her much loved pet. Alliance usually doesn’t allow pets but grandfathered in the pet rule at 2924 35th Avenue.
Laura and Jimmy and their 5 year old son are the newest tenants at 2924 35th Avenue. They were referred to Alliance Housing by another tenant in the building who knew of their saga to regain stable housing. Laura and Jimmy were early victims of the early COVID shut down economy and lost jobs and their house. Offers of friends to re-locate to Missouri for work and housing ended up being more promise than reality. They spent all of the money they had on lodging (mostly camping), food, gas and survival until they got back to Minnesota. Through persistence they got a little help from the County and were ultimately able to start a business that had long been a dream. Their son loves the new apartment and his bedroom. Other tenants have been really warm and welcoming. The stability and work are slowly helping them put the 4 month saga behind them.
Alliance Housing’s board of directors hosted an evening event and fundraiser on September 30th to celebrate the organization’s 30 years of mission focused work. Friends, family and colleagues seemed pleased to celebrate the legacy of Alliance and its promising future as well as enjoy each other’s company. Most had had limited social engagements over the last 1 ½ year due to the pandemic.
President Ben Olk III welcomed the crowd and put Alliance’s housing portfolio in the context of the City’s affordable housing shortage and cost crisis. He did a brief tribute to Executive Director, Barb Jeanetta, who had announced her retirement as of June 30, 2022. Jeanetta summarized Alliance’s housing portfolio, recent acquisitions. Some of the year’s policy wins included the City of Minneapolis ordinance that allows new single room occupancy licenses, an issue Alliance had advocated for, for many years.
As usual, the highlight of the event was testimony of Alliance tenants – this year provided in video format. Yolanda Drew was able to move to a studio apartment at Hiawatha Commons after enduring the behavior of a drug addicted roommate and her friends. Yolanda’s enthusiasm is infectious and her gratitude to Property Manager, Bob Bono, well deserved. Keisha Buskey is a hard working head of household. She works at a care center and was one of the essential workers who reported for work throughout the pandemic. A Florida transplant, Keisha and her kids consider Minnesota home. (Click each tenant’s name to see their video)
Vice President Miranda Walker brought the program to a close while encouraging guests to make a donation towards future work.
Many thanks to all of our donors and sponsors who helped us exceed our fundraising goal for the year’s event – nearing $80,000.
Barbara Jeanetta, Executive Director of Alliance Housing – a nonprofit developer and owner of inclusive, affordable, relational, and flexible housing – announced recently she will retire from her position in the spring of 2022. During her tenure, Jeanetta strengthened and deepened the housing and advocacy mission of the organization. She will work closely with the Alliance Board to identify and support a new leader who is inspired and motivated to create physical and political environments where individuals and families can create homes for themselves, regardless of income and background.
Jeanetta was hired as Alliance Housing’s Executive Director in December of 2013, taking the reins from Alliance’s former Director, Herb Frey, who held the position for over fourteen years. “Alliance Housing was born out of the vision of St. Stephens’ Catholic Church emergency shelter volunteers and residents,” Jeanetta recalled. “I remember Herb saying that they saw a need for more safe, affordable, long-term housing options for the adults that utilized the shelter’s services and created Alliance to meet that need. That is still the central mission for Alliance today: building and operating housing that works for very low-income individuals and households that are really left out of market opportunities. Honestly, I never wanted to be an ED, but I knew, if there was ever an organization that I’d want to lead, it would be Alliance. I always admired Alliance’s relational, no barriers-style with tenants, and that they were trying to provide quality housing, not ‘fix’ people.”
Although transitioning from a nearly founding leader to a first successor can be a challenging time for an organization, Jeanetta saw the transition as an opportunity to apply her own unique leadership style to dig deeper into Alliance’s mission. “Barb is ‘straight, no chaser,’” laughs GMHF Senior Loan Officer and Alliance Board Member Miranda Walker. “That’s what I like most about working with her. Getting work done is efficient because she delivers information and insights with full honesty and transparency.” Indeed, during her tenure, Jeanetta led the organization in acquiring 120 new units of deeply affordable housing and a contract to manage a 31 unit rooming house for Hennepin County, providing her successor with a robust pipeline of properties to develop and manage.
“I am really excited about Alliance’s future. Our latest tax credit property, 3301 Nicollet, will house Minneapolis households who fall below 50% of the area median income, with units specially set aside for tenants with a history of long-term homelessness and persons with disabilities (mental illness and co-occurring addition). We expect these units to be leasable after construction completes in about 24 months. We are also pursuing a number of naturally occurring affordable housing (“NOAH”) options to acquire so the city doesn’t lose any affordable units.” These developments offer Alliance Housing’s next Executive Director with a lot of exciting, mission-critical work to see through to the finish line, and an opportunity to apply their own unique leadership style to meet the ever evolving housing and environmental barriers very low-income Minneapolis residents face when seeking safe, dignified and affordable places to call home.
Despite the active development pipeline, Jeanetta would be the first to point out that the job of the ED goes far beyond just focusing on “bricks and sticks.” The primary commitment Alliance Housing has made to its tenants is that it will work with them to challenge the social and political environments that limit their opportunities. “I think one of my most impactful accomplishments as ED has been developing Alliance’s policy advocacy role to address system changes,” Jeanetta notes. Under Jeanetta’s leadership, Alliance Housing became an outspoken critic of common rental screening practices, at both local market-rate and affordable projects, that screen out residents with criminal and eviction histories and has proven through its own management practices that low-barrier housing can provide safe, long-term housing for those who need it most. Under Jeanetta, Alliance Housing was also one of the leading advocacy voices fighting to pass Minneapolis’ new SRO ordinance, which will allow non-profits to build and manage more “rooming house”-style projects, with common kitchens and bathrooms, that make it possible to offer units for rent at levels affordable to the very lowest income Minneapolis residents.
When surveying Jeanetta’s time at Alliance, Board Chair Ben Olk notes, “Barb has taken Alliance Housing to a whole new level. Her ability to build on what had existed and create relationships with all the stakeholders – tenants, funders, employees – has created a solid foundation on which we can continue to build. While she will be a difficult act to follow, she has created the structures and presence that will allow her successor to continue to create and develop housing so that the most vulnerable can create a home for themselves.”
The Alliance Housing Board plans to celebrate Jeanetta at their upcoming 30th Anniversary Reception, to be held Thursday, September 30th at the St. Paul Town and Country Club.
Alliance Housing is celebrating its 30th anniversary year. Please join us the evening of September 30, 2021 to help celebrate.
We’re planning an “in person” our 30th anniversary reception on Sept. 30th from 5-7pm. We’ll host an evening reception in lieu of our traditional early morning breakfast at the Town and Country Club. Besides food and drink, we’ll honor past board members, staff and invite some of our longer tenured tenants talk about their stories.
RSVP by emailing email@example.com or https://www.eventbrite.com/e/alliance-housing-inc-30th-anniversary-fundraising-event-tickets-166315382787
Questions? Call Barb at 612-879-7633 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Speaking of things that have fallen in place (but are backed by years of work), Alliance Housing was pleased to receive the final piece of funding it needed to proceed with building 3301 Nicollet – future home for 64 households of low wage workers, many who need a 2nd chance at stable housing. We’re working on the paperwork to close on financing in early September 2021, will start construction soon thereafter and begin leasing apartments in October 2022. Hennepin County, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines and the City of Minneapolis have provided the $15 million of project funding needed to proceed with the project.
Our first meeting about the project was with the Lyndale Neighorhood Association’s Development and Housing Committee in 2016. The committee and organization gave their support from the very beginning. They wanted to see more productive and positive economic activity on the corner from the dilapidated commercial structure that was there until Alliance demolished it in Fall 2018. It has taken 3 years of persistence in funding applications to get to this point along with work by Frerichs Construction, our general contractor, to provide updated pricing and Paul Gates Architect to refine and create the design plan. We all look forward to the first shovel of dirt turning and the first tenant moving in to a brand new, affordable apartment.
Other work that keeps us moving are the search for additional family sized rental properties and discussing 3rd party management with other property owners with similar values as Alliance. Our list of interested family applicants, some 250+ families, is at a standstill. Our existing family tenants aren’t moving – they have really nice places for a really affordable rent. We’re scouring the market for 3-10 unit properties with 2 or more bedrooms to allow us to house more families. We’ve got a $1 million commitment from an anonymous donor to assist with a purchase. We’ve got access to credit and the know how in how to raise additional capital. If you know of any properties in/around our existing properties that are or will become available, please let us know.
We’ve built up a bit of property management capacity in our operation as a transition for the eventual retirement of a long time staffer. Tamuno Imbu came on fulltime in May 2020. Tiffany Simmons came on part-time in October 2020. Bob Bono became part-time in February 2021. We’re in conversation with organizations and individuals who own property but need some property management expertise.
Alliance Housing, Inc., Plymouth Congregational Church, the Hennepin History Museum and Align Minneapolis have rescheduled an evening with Richard Rothstein that was cancelled due to the pandemic in early 2020. Rothstein and the event will be live on video chat on April 21st at 7pm. He will discuss his book The Color of Law. Racial segregation characterizes every metropolitan area in the U.S. and bears responsibility for our most serious social and economic problems – it corrupts our criminal justice system, exacerbates economic inequality, and produces large academic gaps between white and African American schoolchildren. Alliance hopes Professor Rothstein’s talk helps illuminate a better understanding of who is poor, homeless and the lives of Alliance tenants.
For more information or to register for the event: (https://hennepinhistory.org/event/color-of-law/.
The Pohlad Foundation and the Minneapolis Foundation have provided support to this event so we could keep costs to guests low.
Please save the evening of Thursday, September 30th on your calendars. Assuming we’re past pandemic restrictions, we’d like you to help us celebrate “in person” our 30th anniversary. We’ll host an evening reception in lieu of our traditional early morning breakfast at the Town and Country Club. Besides food and drink, we’ll honor past board members, staff and invite some of our longer tenured tenants talk about their stories.
In honor of its anniversary, Alliance Housing would like to raise $1 million dollars to sustain its work long-term. The dollars will be used over the next 30 years to make capital repairs to sustain 21 scattered site properties as “best on the block”
While many of Alliance’s scattered site properties are nearly 100 years old. We pride ourselves in having the “best house on the block.” We respond to tenant calls about maintenance and have developed a plan to keep the properties in good shape long term by completing larger improvements like roofs and major kitchen or bathroom remodeling.
Alliance Housing has $308,000 saved for long term capital improvements as of December 2020. We add about $40,000 to the fund each year. A recent assessment of all capital improvements needed over the next 30 years indicates we’ll need another $1,000,000 to maintain the quality of our properties on behalf of the tenants and neighbors and our own asset. We did a soft start to the fundraising campaign in 2020 and added $10,000 to capital reserves. Please let us know if you can make a one- time gift or a multi-year pledge to this effort.
Here at Alliance Housing, we’ve been advocating and agitating for many years for our belief that rooming houses and sleeping rooms can be part of the solution to the problem of homelessness. In this past year our efforts have begun to bear fruit. We were able to expand our portfolio with the addition of a 31 unit rooming house in the Stevens Square neighborhood. At the same time, we’ve seen a resurgence of interest in this idea among policy-makers. To me it feels like luck, but Board member Fran Neir reminds me that we’ve put in a lot of time laying the groundwork.
Let me tell you about our newest property. Because we believe in rooming houses as a viable and valuable option for people with precious little money to spend on rent, Alliance has been actively seeking another rooming house property for several years. Last summer we looked at a property at 143 E. 19th Street that was owned by Volunteers of America. They were consolidating some programs and wanted to sell this property.
Alliance could not afford to buy it and operate it at the asking price, but we knew that Hennepin County was looking for properties to purchase with federal CARES Act dollars, for permanent housing for the men and women staying in the shelter hotels during the pandemic. We shared the sale information with them. To make a long story short, Hennepin County purchased the property, and Alliance was selected to manage it along the lines of our existing model.
After rehabilitation by Hennepin County, the doors opened in December and the first tenants moved in December 30, 2020. We call it Stevens Square Residence.
Among the first to move in was R. Torkelson – a 53 year man from the shelter. He had been homeless for the past 4 years, in and out of the shelters and was grateful to move into a place he could settle in and call his own. Mr. Torkelson expressed how his health has been an issue and he hasn’t been able to address it being homeless. Stevens Square gives him a 2nd chance to take care of himself, again.
Joining Torkelson and the others is David Sobata. He had previously lived at another Alliance Housing property and was excited to know Stevens Square is managed by us, as well. David enjoyed being at one of Hennepin County’s “shelter hotels” over the last year and was worried about the transition to his own unit. Yet, he know no shelter was permanent and needed some assurance of stability in his life. After a few months David says, “having my own room and being independent is wonderful.” He has made his unit his own and has been an advocate at Steven Square to keep things clean and running well.
At the same time, we’ve noticed that our advocacy efforts around the issue are paying off, as well. New rooming houses have been forbidden in the City of Minneapolis for decades. The only way to provide additional units was purchase of a rooming house with an existing license. I’ve looked at several existing properties, and there aren’t many worth purchasing, or living in. Most are the kind of properties that give rooming houses a bad name: poorly managed and poorly maintained for decades.
But this year, attitudes toward the rooming house model of affordable housing began to shift. Two initiatives have invigorated the conversation. First, the City and County have each formed a task force to increase the number of rooming houses in Minneapolis and Hennepin County. As a representative of an organization with experience operating rooming houses, I was asked to join both task forces. Minneapolis Councilmembers Gordon, Schroeder and Goodman are leading the City study process, with the goal of crafting a resolution allowing new sleeping room licenses in Minneapolis. The legislation is expected to be in front of the City Council in Spring 2021.
Concurrently, Hennepin County Commissioner Opat urged the County to do what it could to encourage quality rooming house properties as part of the broader County affordable housing strategy. He started a study committee to learn what was needed and what barriers existed to build or renovate them in various communities across the County. The committee continues to meet even with the exit of Commissioner Opat from his seat, and is expected to present its recommendations this summer.
About the speaker
Rothstein is a distinguished fellow of the Economic Policy Institute and a senior fellow (emeritus) at the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. In addition to his most recent book, Rothstein is the author of many other articles and books on race and education, including Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic and Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap and Grading Education: Getting Accountability Right. He also was the national education columnist for the New York Times for several years.
Hosts and sponsors
This event is hosted by Hennepin History Museum, Plymouth Congregational Church, Alliance Housing Incorporated, and Align Minneapolis. It is sponsored by the Minneapolis Foundation and the Pohlad Family Foundation.
To register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-color-of-law-tickets-142289478661
At Alliance Housing, we’ve always kept an ‘interest list’ of completed applications. We can’t call it a ‘waiting list’ because vacancies are few and far between, and most people looking for housing can’t wait. With the incredibly low vacancy rate in the Twin Cities, especially for those at the low end of the income scale, that list has grown to 500 for single adults and 250 for families. When we started, the list was intended to create a pool of applicants, ready to move in when we have a vacancy in our sleeping rooms or 2-3 bedroom apartments. Since we only have a handful of vacancies each year, being number 213 on our list doesn’t give much hope.
We keep adding to the list, though, and it serves as a bit of an olive branch for the 5-10 people who call us each week looking for a home. We have nowhere else to refer them, so we offer them a free application and a slight chance that we might be able to help them somewhere down the line. Our list also serves as a bellwether for the demand for deeply affordable rental units that will give applicants a 2nd chance to access rental housing even if they’ve had an eviction, have criminal convictions, or do not meet standard rent-to-income ratios.
Whenever I mention the 500 person list for sleeping rooms, I observe a lot of incredulous listeners. Yes, we tell our callers, “For single adults we rent sleeping rooms. You will have a lease in your name, you will have the room to yourself but you’ll share a bathroom and kitchen with other unrelated adults for around $360 month.” Now we’ve had to add, “The last person to come off the list waited over two years.” And still, people complete an application to get their name added to the list. Some dutifully call regularly to find out where they are on the list or to update their contact information.
Recently, we had a studio apartment open up in one of our contract-managed buildings. As I called people on the list to see if I could pass their name along, I thought about how I could describe who is out there waiting for our singles housing. Analyzing the applications, I found:
- About 30% had no income, or had $200 in General Assistance payments from the County. They simply can’t afford to rent from us (remember, they have to come up with $360/month!), unless they begin to earn some income or can secure rental assistance. That rental assistance is scarce; only 1 in 4 eligible persons actually ends up getting it.
- About 40% had Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) of about $800 per month. These folks can pay the rent for one of our sleeping rooms and still have some money for other life expenses. While waiting for a vacancy at Alliance Housing, there is little else they can afford in the current housing market. Some private market sleeping rooms rent for as high as $700 per month. Studios are hard to find under $800. And so, the list grows.
- The balance (30%) had some other sort of retirement income or employment. I don’t have to tell you how many people today have inadequate pensions, savings, or other income for retirement; the statistics are dismal. On our waiting list, retirement income amounts are around $1000-$1200 per month. Workers reported ??? per month.
I felt a bit sad about the state of affairs in our ‘market-based’ housing market. The market simply isn’t up to the challenge of providing housing for everyone, and there are insufficient public resources to house everyone. Our City parks were populated by homeless encampments this summer, and it’s no wonder. Hennepin County reports around 1000 adults in shelters and shelter hotels. Homeless single adult numbers continue to rise. (Reported homelessness among families and youth has actually decreased.) I suspect that those 1000 adults mirror our interest list population.
As I called down the list to fill our recent vacancy, I focused on those earning $1000 or more per month since the studio apartment was $459/month. Yes, you read that correctly; if you’re the lucky one, you can rent a studio apartment for $459/month. Alliance Housing built Hiawatha Commons, Gateway Lofts, and Minnehaha Commons with a strategy that included primarily non-amortizing debt and other public support. This allows rents sized for adults and families earning 30% of area median income, which is about $21,700 for a single adult and $34,000 for a family of 4. It’s real estate development the hard way. Most of what gets built these days, even by nonprofit mission-oriented developers is focused on people earning 50%-60% of area median income so the property can support debt. It makes funding easier to secure, but it prices out those most in need of support. Alliance focuses all of its real estate development effort on those adults and families who many nonprofit and for-profit developers sidestep.
To my relief, a good number of folks on our list who had income of $1,000 or more had managed to find other housing. That’s a good thing.
So what do we need to do? Alliance Housing’s Board of Directors has set an objective to increase our housing portfolio by 35% over the next 3-5 years. We’ll do our part for those at the bottom end of the income scale and those that traditionally get screened out by other landlords. We know from multiple studies, from common-sense, and from our experience that people who are housed are able to care for themselves and their families. Stable housing is a springboard for just about anything positive to happen in one’s life. The unhoused are more of a drain on public services – hospital emergency rooms, crisis services and public safety. Hennepin County has made similar conclusions and increased the amount of resources it will dedicate to its high priority clients over the next 10 years. State Housing Agency plans indicate similar interest.
We simply need all affordable housing capital funders to align and focus resources with the need. The market will take care of those with more income and options.
Since March, Alliance Housing has been able to forgive $1 for every $1 of rent paid by tenants who have lost hours or employment due to COVID or the unrest following the death of George Floyd. The idea of the fund came from Alliance’s staff, who knew that low-wage working adults already had very little margin for recovering from financial setbacks. Getting behind on a month of rent made it nearly impossible to ever catch up. Even though many of our tenants often work multiple part-time jobs, they simply earn too little money to cover basic life obligations.
Alliance was able to take advantage of special COVID and emergency funding opportunities offered by The Constellation Fund, Otto Bremer Trust, and the Minneapolis Foundation’s OneMpls Fund. Individual donors and St. Joan of Arc Partners Program also donated to the cause, providing Alliance Housing just under $30,000 to match tenant rent payments.
We’ve also been given a $30,000 matching funds opportunity by the FS Foundation to increase the rent forgiveness fund and expand it to our larger apartment buildings. The FS Foundation is on a mission to foster independence, self-reliance, pride of craftsmanship, and sense of purpose for under-resourced adults. This matching grant will double your donation to the Alliance Housing Rent Forgiveness Fund and will be a huge relief for tenants who are already living with a lot of stress during these uncertain times.
So far, we’ve assisted 25 households with $17,400 dollars, an average of $695 each ($115 per month). Some tenants have
received multiple matches who are paying smaller amounts over time. As you know, Alliance Housing has always given its
tenants extra time and flexibility in getting caught up with rent during a financial setback.
Felicia and her family have been living in an Alliance duplex since June 2019. Her full-time job at a daycare center is right down the street. When the pandemic brought us lay-offs and stay-at-home orders, her work hours became very sporadic. Recently she’s been getting only 20 to 30 hours per week. Felicia has had the opportunity to get shifts at other daycare franchise locations, but that requires reliable transportation, which until now, she hasn’t needed. Matches for what she can pay makes her feel like she is pulling her own weight despite the reduced hours.
Thomas works at McDonalds. He feels fortunate to still be working at the take-out window. He pays $380 per month for his room. At $12.50 per hour he was able to make ends meet working 30 hours per week. Since the pandemic, his hours have been cut to 10 per week so he now only makes about $500 per month, making paying his rent a heavy lift. He is grateful for the hand up and sleeps better at night with no worries of losing his home.
If you wish to participate in the Rent Forgiveness Fund in collaboration with our generous funders and individual donors, you will be helping hard working people like Thomas and Felicia, keeping them safe in their homes, so they can keep working through these difficult times. Donate using the enclosed envelope or click the “Donate” button on our webpage:
At the time of publishing our Spring 2020 Newsletter, Alliance Housing was excited to initiate a community project, a mosaic memorial at Minnehaha Commons, in honor of the six people who died in the fire on the site on April 2, 2010. Unfortunately, COVID-19 interfered with our plans. Alliance plans to reschedule in the spring, when we can work outside and create something to honor the victims of the fire, and all those who have suffered by being fragilely housed. Mosaic artist Lori Greene will work with residents in designing and craft- ing the memorial. The project is funded by Alliance Housing, Inc. and Touchstone Mental Health, the onsite provider at Minnehaha Commons.
Everyone has been affected by the events of this year – the pandemic, civil unrest following the death of George Floyd, economic upheaval, the list goes on. Alliance Housing serves very low-income people who have been hit even harder than many of us. Our older and disabled residents are dealing with social isolation and not being able to gather in public spaces like the library, or even go shopping. Our single and family residents who were making ends meet before the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 are now struggling due to loss of work, or reduction of hours. Or they continue to work, but in jobs that place them in harm’s way, dealing directly with the public or at-risk clients such as in nursing homes, daycares, and takeout windows, while the rest of us are safely working from home or in a controlled office environment. Some hold multiple and temporary jobs, trying to keep afloat. Others sell their plasma or borrow money from family and friends. Some have even pursued getting new jobs during this time, looking for a brighter future.
In 2017, before living in her Alliance duplex, Desiree and her three boys, then aged 8 and 4-year-old twins, lived in a house on the North Side. Her bills were high, and her pay was low. Inevitably, they lost their home, and Desiree and the boys ended up living in her truck for over a month. During that time, one of the twins was hospitalized in the NICU unit for two weeks. Desiree would park her truck, her home, near the hospital to spend time with her son, and hope that the truck would be there when she returned.
On October 1, 2017, a date that is etched in Desiree’s memory, she got a call from Alliance’s property manager Bob Bono. Alliance had a home for her. She couldn’t stop crying. The family moved into their home on 22nd and Upton Avenue North on October 4, 2017. And on October 7th, her son came home from the NICU, not to the truck, but to a real home. The unit is a nice size for her family. They can look out the picture window and get a view of their neighborhood. Desiree has been working at the front desk of a motel for three years. Although she feels lucky to have a job, Desiree is worried about being out in public and being exposed to the virus, and then putting her children at risk. She rides the bus to and from work, about a 35 minute ride each way, and a further risk of exposure to the virus. And even though travel is down due to the virus, her motel is full; full of medical workers isolating from their own families to keep them safe, and full of homeless people, reminding her of her past life before she and her children moved into their Alliance home.
In the spring, Desiree sometimes had to take her children with her to work because there was no where else for them to be since
school was online. Finally she asked her family for help. Her older sister worked with her older 10-year-old, and the father of the
six-year-old twins took on their schooling. This arrangement has continued this school year. Despite the stress of providing for and raising her children during a pandemic, Desiree benefits from knowing that she has a safe and secure home. She admits that she has depression and anger issues, but that she hasn’t “gone off on anyone” since she moved into her Alliance home. She says the organization is a good one for a single mom, and “if you ever get the chance, go to Alliance (Housing).”
Alliance’s work makes it possible for individuals and families to create homes for themselves, regardless of income and background..
Thank you to those who joined us virtually on September 24, 2020 for the Alliance Housing Fundraising Breakfast. We raised just under $90,000.
Mark your calendars now for Alliance Housing’s 2021 30th anniversary fundraising event – September 30th.
There is still time to check out the videos and make a donation. Here is the website link:
Questions? Call Barb at 612-879-7633 or email her at email@example.com
There wasn’t be the lively company of our friends, colleagues and family nor pastry, coffee and fruit. . .
but there was:
- Videos of two tenants; Robert & Lisa
- Video of Barb Jeanetta with an overview of Alliance & snapshot of what’s underway
- Video of Rose Carr from The Constellation Fund saying why they invested in Alliance
- A list of our event sponsors
And of course, instructions on several ways to donate to Alliance Housing.
- Click the donate button on this page
- Mail us a check (address below)
- Call Barb with credit card info.
Thank you to those of you who joined us and made a gift. If you’d still like to see the videos or make a donation, there is still time: www.alliancehousinginc.org/fundraiser2020/
Questions? Call Barb at 612-879-7633 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
As more details of the pandemic have evolved, our Board of Directors has determined that it is highly unlikely a gathering of 250 people in September is realistic. Because the Breakfast is a key fundraising tool for Alliance, we’ve decided to adapt and host a virtual event.
We plan to email a link to videos with messages from our tenants, board, funder, and myself that will launch on September 24th. It will be accessible for about a week, allowing more flexibility than a breakfast event to our virtual guests. We’ll ask for their support through an online donation or other means. We plan to gather again in 2021 to celebrate our 30th anniversary.
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
This spring, Minnehaha Commons residents, staff, and community members will be creating a mosaic in memory of the six people who
perished in a fire on the site on April 2nd, 2010. Ann Gervais, her son Andrew Gervais, his three children Colton Gervais, and twins Austin and Aliciah Gervais-Hjellming planned to stay in an apartment above McMahon’s Pub with family friend Ryan Richner. They had nowhere else to stay that night.
Spearheaded by mosaic artist Lori Greene of Mosaic on a Stick, the group will be working together to make an artwork in tribute to all those who have been fragilely housed. When asked why so many of her mosaic installations are memorials, Greene reflected that mosaics are “broken” pieces of glass and tile, and that the people who are making the memorials have often been broken by their experiences. Minnehaha
Commons resident Charles Tolliver pointed out that crafting the mosaic is a step toward putting lives back together, and healing, not only for the community and family members but also for the residents of Minnehaha Commons, who have themselves been homeless in the past. Funding for the mosaic will be provided by Alliance Housing, Inc., and Touchstone Mental Health. Residents will also have the opportunity to make a trivet for their apartment. The memorial mosaic will be installed in the common area of Minnehaha Commons.
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!
You’ve heard us talking about Bob Bono, our 20+ year property manager and “secret sauce” to
our 2nd chance housing, relational property management operations. Bob is starting to think
about retiring in the next 1-3 years. Alliance is implementing a succession plan for him by
hiring a part-time property manager to train in over the next year to learn the “Alliance way.”
Alliance’s property management begins with low barrier screening that gives adults and
families a 2nd chance to access stable, quality housing despite a background that may include
evictions, poor credit, criminal convictions, or high rent to income ratios. Alliance has
operated housing with this philosophy for the past 25+ years.
Alliance’s tenants often have incomes at or below 30% of area median income. People living
on this level of income are adept at managing occasional set-backs – a car break down, large
medical bills, or assistance to a family member. They simply need some flexibility with rent
payments to remain stably housed. Alliance’s property management is flexible and negotiates
rent payment plans with all tenants who need one.
This management style is unique among property managers – even other nonprofit organizations. It’s not taught in a book or a
class. In its succession planning, Alliance is looking for candidates with a strong foundation in tenant/landlord relations and law.
Combined with the necessary on-the-job training, Alliance looks forward to successfully sustaining its 2nd chance, relational
property management operation past the retirement of our dedicated, long-time employee, Bob.
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.
Thank you to all of you who have reached out to ask how Alliance Housing is weathering the effects of the COVID-19 virus. The short answer is “we’re doing business nearly as normal.” Turns out it’s pretty difficult to fix a toilet or get a furnace running while working virtually. Those of us who are more office-based are still reporting to work. Property management in our world is highly paper and file intensive. Most of those things don’t exist in digital platforms. Our office is small. We have our own space and are all happy to report to work.
The real heroes are Raymond, Craig, Michael and Bob – our caretakers, maintenance and property management staff. They continue to visit tenant homes and building common space to clean, repair and collect rent. They are aware of and practice good hygiene practices. Everyone’s hands are ready to crumble off with extra hand washing. We all healthy and will not endanger tenant’s health if and when we have signs of being ill.
Our real worries are for our tenants. Forty three percent of our tenants work – primarily parttime and low wage hourly ($10-$15) jobs. Others receive social security, disability or some other sort of rent support. They will be less affected. We’re assessing the damage but know many of them have already been laid off or lost hours. We’ve always been in the business of accepting late rent payments and negotiating payment plans. Now will be no different. It just may be delayed a bit longer. Worst case scenario, if 100% of working tenants paid no rent, it amounts to about $25,000 per month. Fortunately, we can weather that for a few months.
If you want to help, we are contemplating a fund that could eventually forgive $1 of rent for each $1 of rent paid. We think this will help immensely because families will be so far behind if they are out of work for 2 or more months, it will be nearly impossible for them ever to catch up. They simply don’t earn sufficient income to ever get ahead. As foundation funds are made available or additional gifts are received from donors through June, we’ll seed and create the fund.
As always, if you have other questions or suggestions, please call or email me at 612-879-7633 or email@example.com.
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.
Over 100 people packed the auditorium at Open Book on October 16th to hear a dozen authors read from Home: An Anthology, exploring the concept of what home means to each of us. Readings ranged from comic to tragic, and all were heartfelt. Executive Director Barbara Jeanetta kicked off the standing-room-only event by thanking the publisher and authors, all of whom donated their work to make the anthology happen. All profits from book sales go to Alliance Housing, Inc. Copies of the book may be ordered from Amazon or at your local bookstore. https://www.flexiblepub.com/home-anthology
Sometimes the affordable housing crisis seems so big and overwhelming, people shrink from solutions. The tenant-landlord relationship has always been balanced in favor of the landlord and many tenants feel powerless to change it. The need for affordable housing far outstrips public resources despite efforts of the City, State, and County to increase financing programs.
Over the past couple of years, Alliance has stepped into the policy arena with other housing advocates, developers, and tenants. In September, after months of study and public comment, the City Council adopted two tenant protection measures. The first limits how far back landlords can look into a prospective tenant’s background. In the past, many tenants have been screened out of other landlord’s housing because of past criminal background. Alliance Housing has learned, and studies support this finding, that after a few years, screening out these tenants does not make sense. They are no more likely to re-offend, or be a poor tenant, than people without a criminal background. The second protection measure is to limit the dollar amount landlords can charge for security deposits. Alliance and others were active in organizing support for these ordinances.
Also during 2019, Make Homes Happen MPLS (MHH) successfully influenced the Mayor to continue resources for affordable housing in the 2020 budget. The Mayor has proposed a plan to provide $50M of local funds to the Housing Trust Fund over an eight-year period. This is the first step in establishing an ongoing, dedicated affordable housing resource for the City. Alliance is a member of MHH, and its tenants have talked with the Mayor and City Councilmembers, and plan to be at the public hearings on the budget.
Policy and communication efforts are essential to increase the supply of housing & effect change on issues important to the well-being of tenants.
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.
In September, our long-time Tenant Support Coordinator, Audrey Preston will be leaving, after 15 years working at Alliance. Before joining the Alliance team, Audrey worked for 16 years with homeless adult programs at St. Stephens Human Services, making her a perfect fit for the Alliance job. She came to the work from the “school of hard knocks” – having gone gotten sober and stable from years of addiction and all the problems it brings.
In her most recent work with residents at our 2011 Pillsbury property, Audrey practiced relational management every time she walked through the door. Most of the residents are older, retired, and often isolated. Audrey would check in, offer her signature good humor and words of encouragement, and send people on their way with a better outlook because someone cared to ask after them. She helped residents connect with agencies and programs in the community as well as remembering birthdays and other important life events. Audrey always made sure the building was running smoothly and would alert property manager and his team if anything needed attention. Audrey will be missed. The bond that residents have with her is clear – hugs and handshakes all around.
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.
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.