Author Archive

Seeing A Need & Taking Action

Posted on: April 2nd, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local publisher to benefit Alliance Housing

Posted on: January 22nd, 2019

“Home” is the theme of an anthology in development by a Twin Cities author and publisher, William Burleson, with all proceeds of the book earmarked for Alliance Housing. “When planning this new project, supporting Alliance was simply a no-brainer,” says Burleson. “I think Alliance’s approach to empowering people and building communities is exactly what excites me, and everyone involved in Flexible Press.”

Burleson is still on the lookout for short fiction, poetry, and essays connected to Minnesota and exploring what home means to each of us. “We want to help emerging authors have their voices heard, especially those who too often have not had a voice,” adds Burleson. Flexible Press continues to take submissions until May 15, 2019. More information can be found at www.flexiblepub.com.

The mission of Flexible Press “is to support authors, communities, and mission-driven non-profits through story.” Home is planned be the fourth book and second anthology from Flexible Press. In the fall of 2018, Lake Street Stories was released with 12 stories focused on the iconic South Minneapolis thoroughfare, with all profits going to CLUES.

Construction Underway (Finally!) on Minnehaha Commons

Posted on: November 13th, 2018

Before any construction project breaks ground, there is a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony. Alliance Housing hosted the groundbreaking for Minnehaha Commons on September 13th. The event was well attended by board members and friends of Alliance Housing, neighbors, and members of the project development team.  Pastor Ingrid Rasmussen from the neighboring congregation of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church offered a blessing for future residents of Minnehaha Commons.  MN Department of Human Services Commissioner Piper shared her department’s beliefs that stable housing is essential for the health and well-being of older adults.  The department’s early investment in the project was a catalyst for other government funding.  City Councilmember Cam Gordon welcomed Alliance to the neighborhood.  The City’s investment follows its priorities of housing some of the City’s lowest income and most vulnerable citizens.

Watson Forsberg and TRI Construction began digging dirt the week of Oct 22nd.  The project is slated to be completed and fully leased by September 2019.  Stay tuned for a ribbon cutting celebration and sneak preview tours.  We are excited to make Minnehaha Commons home for 44 single adults, aged 55+ with a history of homelessness.

2011 Pillsbury Renovation – A Place to Gather

Posted on: November 13th, 2018

It’s been a long time coming, but finally, the residents at 2011 Pillsbury will have a new community room in which to gather.

There will be an Open House on Friday, November 9th, to unveil the room, and to thank all the people who made the room possible, from the paint on the walls, to the furnishings.

Residents will enjoy the easy chair, couch, and TV. They’ll be able to chat, watch the Vikings game, work on a group craft, or play cards. Although the residents like having their own private rooms, they also crave time with their neighbors, as evidenced by high attendance at monthly dinners where they sit around and chat long after the meal is finished. It will be a great place for residents to relax and reconnect.

Politics With A Small “p”

Posted on: November 13th, 2018

The day Mayor Frey announced $40 million in housing funding in his 2019 budget was a good day – and proof that our work in the policy and communications arena can pay off.  Alliance Housing, primarily Director Barb Jeanetta and Intern Ryan Cirillo, have been active in the Make Homes Happen campaign.   The campaign is made up of nonprofit developers, service providers and tenant advocates focused on increased resources and better policy to support tenants and owners of affordable housing in the City of Minneapolis.  Primarily, the group has been advocating for $50 million in dedicated funding for affordable housing production, preservation and tenant protections over the next 10 years.  The group considers Mayor Frey’s $40 million one year commitment a good start and is now working with Council Members to maintain and or increase that amount and make it a more permanent annual amount.

Over the last 6 months, Ryan has been updating our tenant survey. Alliance created the biennial tenant survey in order to identify the policy issues that our tenants are most invested in. As a result, when Alliance intervenes in local and state politics, we can more accurately advocate for our tenants because we have an abundance of data telling us where they stand on important issues.

This year, we spoke to 50 tenants from nearly all properties, including Hiawatha Commons and Gateway Lofts. We found that, in the past two years since the last survey, our tenants have become increasingly concerned with how the housing market interacts with the criminal justice system, the issue of affordable housing, and living wages/Social Security payments. Alliance intends on using this data to continue our history of advocating for our tenants’ rights.

During the next year, Alliance staff, board and tenants will continue to engage with Make Homes Happen and in the Homes For All MN coalition which is focused on State-level policy and resources.  We’re encouraged that the MN Council of Nonprofits is hiring a policy advocate to focus on economic security issues, including affordable health care and child care.  Those issues are of interest to our tenants and Alliance will find a good way to align.  We keep appraised of issues at the federal level that need our attention through our membership in the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Through the survey and staff relationships, we’ve been able to engage tenants in meetings with their elected official and other campaign & coalition events.  Board and staff also maintain relationships with elected officials in local, state and federal districts where we own properties.  From time to time, we engage donors who live in districts where key housing issues are playing out.

Alliance’s Housing Profile; rooms, family apartments, larger apartment buildings

Posted on: November 13th, 2018

41 sleeping rooms

You may have heard us talk about our sleeping rooms – an endangered species in the Twin Cities housing market.  41 adult men and women call Alliance’s rooms “home.”  Rooms rent for around $350 per month – an amount affordable to someone living on a fixed disability award or $9-$12 hour per hour wages at jobs without regular schedules.  Tenants live an average of 4 years in Alliance’s rooms.  20% have called it home for over 5 years and 7% over 10 years.  Residents give up a bit of privacy for the affordable rent and share a kitchen and bathroom with other unrelated adults.  They cannot have overnight guests .

Dustin was homeless for at least three years before becoming a resident at Alliance’s rooming house. This will be his third winter of stable housing. When Dustin first moved in, he had many problems with drinking, partying with drunk friends, and disturbing his neighbors. Working with Dustin’s case manager through Catholic Charities, Alliance’s property manager, Bob Bono, repeatedly tried to re-direct bad behavior in a non-threatening and non-judgmental way. Dustin eventually realized that having a home was more important than drinking to excess and allowing his friends to party in his room. He’s now on good terms with his neighbors and is working hard to keep it that way. He now sees himself as part of the community.

While Dustin has had his ups and downs with his neighbors in the past – “it’s not Sesame Street” he says, he likes that he knows his neighbors, and that people at the rooming house look out for each other. One thoughtful neighbor occasionally leaves a hot cup of coffee outside his door in the morning. Another neighbor was happy when Dustin gave him a pair of jeans. Many residents set things out on the lobby table for taking – a book, candy, playing cards – and these things always find a new home. He also enjoys the monthly community meals at the rooming house, hosted by the Sahades family from Ebenezer Fellowship SDA Church. He and his neighbors sit around and chat, long after they have finished eating.

Dustin is currently unemployed. He admits to a criminal history, and mental health and chemical dependency “demons” all of which make it hard to find a job. But Dustin is getting counseling, and he wants to get training to become a licensed forklift operator, work that he has done before, and enjoyed. In the meantime, he tries to keep himself busy by taking long walks and bike rides around the city, playing cards with friends, and sharing meals at Simpson. He relishes playing cribbage and carries his cribbage board with him, so he is ready to play anytime.

Dustin is happy to be a resident of Alliance Housing. He’s building up a good rental history. He’s proud to be managing his money and taking care of himself. He’s grateful that he’s in a stable home, where he doesn’t have to “lie, cheat, or steal” to survive.

40 family apartments

The City of Minneapolis is 70% single family homes and smaller multi-unit properties – duplexes, four-plexes etc.  These multi-unit homes, embedded in neighborhoods with proximity to schools and parks are great family housing.  Alliance’s two bedroom apartments rent for around $750 per month.  Three bedroom apartments rent for around $850 month.  Families wouldn’t be able to find comparable housing in Minneapolis neighborhoods without paying $300-$500 more per month.  Alliance’s tenants earn less than $20,250 per year – they are food service workers, janitors, day care workers, customer service personnel etc. Families stay an average of 3+ years and 24% have called us home for 5 or more years.

It’s clear when you enter Anitra’s apartment on Penn Avenue that she is proud of her home. Shoes are neatly lined up at the door. It’s quiet and calm. Her toddler daughter’s artwork is carefully displayed. Anitra is happy to provide a stable home for her two children, who have never known homelessness. She’s been in her Alliance home for almost a year.

Currently, Anitra is a stay-at-home mom, but she looks forward to enrolling the girls in daycare, and then getting a job, perhaps in the hospitality industry.

In the past, Anitra spent five years being homeless, which for her meant sleeping on the streets, huddling in her car, staying in shelters, and house-hopping at her mother’s, father’s, and brother’s homes – no way to live. Once she got connected with services through St. Stephen’s and then housing with Alliance, things began looking up for Anitra, and she could settle into her new home. The building is close to a park where her daughters can play. It is conveniently located on a high-frequency bus line, with many stores and amenities nearby. The laundry is right downstairs. Most of all, she doesn’t have to worry. She and her family are secure for now. They have clothing, food, and a place to keep their possessions. It’s called “home.”

Alliance is able to keep rents extra affordable in rooms and family apartments to very low income adults through non-amortizing government capital funding and charitable donations.

Hiawatha Commons and Gateway Lofts

Alliance built Hiawatha Commons in 2005 and Gateway Lofts in 2010.  Both properties took advantage of the federal low income housing tax credit for construction.  Broen Housing, our long time real estate development consultants, also helped Alliance acquire additional non-amortizing debt to assure rents remain affordable for the long run.

Hiawatha’s 80 apartments are nearing their 14th birthday.  The building still looks physically great and commons spaces clean.  Hayes Gibson, our contracted property manager, does a terrific job in maintenance as well as tenant relations.  It was one of the first affordable rental properties built to take advantage of the light rail line on the Hiawatha corridor.  Clerks and service workers from the airport can live and get to work without the expense of a car.  Others take advantage of the varied bus routes nearby to get downtown and to suburban work locations.  Some are fortunate to be able to walk to nearby retail and other employers.

Gateway Lofts located near Thomas on West Broadway was built in 2010 to expand the type of units available at Hiawatha.  Its 46 apartments were some of the first few affordable newly constructed buildings on West Broadway which laid the foundation for market rate apartments today.  Gateway is home to a number of adults who move around in a wheel chair or motorized cart.  Options for mobility handicapped persons were limited in North Minneapolis until newer properties became available.

At both properties, studio apartments, some with balconies, rent for an average of $500 per month.  1 bedroom apartments rent from $465-865 per month.  A handful of 2 bedroom apartments rent for about $1000 per month.  Households need to earn less than $19,850 for most of the studios.  Three person households need to earn less than $42,450 for the 2 bedroom apartments.  Both properties are home to tenants who moved in shortly after construction.

Renisha, her husband, and three children thrive in the 4-story community that has been their home for almost a decade. Like Renisha, many of our residents have families, and appreciate Alliance’s quiet, safe, and stable housing at Hiawatha Commons. In addition to the convenience of having nearby transportation and shopping, Renisha likes that neighbors know each other. She is thankful that on-site staff keeps everything clean, repaired, and most importantly, friendly and caring. She loves that her children go to school with other children in the building. Renisha is grateful that Alliance leased to her years ago and let her move into larger apartments as her family grew. Stable housing has provided a solid foundation for she and her family.

Video Highlights Alliance Tenant

Posted on: November 6th, 2018

Construction on Minnehaha Commons is recently underway.  As noted before, the property will be home to 44 adults, aged 55 years or older with a history of homelessness.  Older adults are a rapidly expanding portion of the homeless singles living in shelters in the community. In 2009, 11% of those who stayed overnight in shelters in Hennepin County were over 55. By 2015 that percentage had doubled. Given the demographic trends regarding the aging of the population as the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age, it is inevitable that the problem will continue to grow.

The staff and leadership of the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) responded to Alliance’s very early questions about resources to house older adults who had experienced homelessness.  An early investment of DHS Live Well at Home funds (LWAH), was a catalyst investment and leverage for other public resources.

This video was produced as part of the 2017 LWAH grant award program.  Alliance Housing’s tenant, Pat Straw, is featured along with other older adults who also have experienced homelessness.  Their stories highlight some of the challenges of finding and keeping affordable housing by older adults.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQR1ACsEDok

Alliance Housing’s Local and Statewide Wins

Posted on: September 4th, 2018

In spite of the brutal heat, Alliance Housing has had an incredibly productive summer. We are elated to share the major political gains that Alliance and our fellow housing nonprofits and advocates made this season!

In the past several months, we have become increasingly involved in Make Homes Happen, a coalition of nonprofits, congregations, neighborhood associations, and of course individual housing advocates like you. Make Homes Happen has been pushing Mayor Jacob Frey and City Council to allocate $50 million dollars in an affordable housing trust fund (AHTF) for the next 10 years in order to address the growing housing crisis in Minneapolis. While our goals were not met in full, Mayor Frey has chosen to invest nearly $40 million dollars into affordable housing for 2019, with state and federal funds bringing the total to $50 million. While our target of $50 million was met, Frey has described this funding as a “one-time infusion” rather than a dedicated stream for 10 years. That said, Make Homes Happen is dedicated will remain steady in our demands until they are met. We are ecstatic to have a mayor that is receptive to our cause and Alliance is looking forward to moving Minneapolis forward in partnership with Make Homes Happen!

The victories for Alliance and the Twin Cities’ many housing advocates have, however, extended well beyond Minneapolis’ borders. On August 21st, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton released the final report for his housing task force. The report included 30 recommendations, including calling for stricter protections for tenants facing eviction and loosening screening requirements that unfairly discriminate against people of color, both of which echo Alliance’s mission of providing flexible, relational, and just housing. Section 5 of the report also highlights the increasing need to “build stronger links between where we live and the services we need to live stable lives” and emphasizes that people living with disabilities, particularly those experiencing homelessness, must live in an integrated setting and have a person-centered plan for overall wellness. The same philosophy underpins Alliance’s partnership with Touchstone Mental Health for Minnehaha Commons: with the proportion of homeless seniors growing, we must allow these people to age in place by consolidating medical services and housing at an integrated yet quiet location in close proximity to a high-frequency bus route as well as the Blue Line.

Overall, the final report reflects a deep understanding of the meaning of housing, citing a secure housing situation as the cornerstone for increased wages, higher academic achievements, and improved health. However, we cannot be complacent with the progress we have made. A Dayton’s term comes to an end, we need to ensure that our next governor will continue to make strides towards housing justice. We urge our supporters to stay informed on housing issues, particularly as they relate to the upcoming gubernatorial election. Homes for All MN will hold a Gubernatorial Forum in Duluth on September 12th at which Jeff Johnson and Tim Walz will discuss their vision for affordable housing in the state of Minnesota. If you are unable to attend, there will be significant media coverage on the event as well as a Homes For All MN Tweetchat on 9/5 from 11AM to 12PM to engage with the candidates and build visibility for our cause.

Thank you for your continuing support for Alliance Housing as we continue to fight for affordable housing!

Ryan Cirillo, Management Intern
rcirillo@alliancehousinginc.org
612-870-2264

Groundbreaking on Project to House 44 Elderly Adults Scheduled for September 13th

Posted on: June 20th, 2018

By fall of 2019, 44 adults, 55 years old or older will call Minnehaha Commons at 3001 E. Lake Street, home. All residents will be very low income; most will have experienced homelessness and may have been screened out by other landlords due to their housing, credit or criminal history. Alliance Housing owns and/or manages similar properties in South and North Minneapolis. The properties are an asset to the tenants, the surrounding neighbors, and our community at large.

Alliance’s partner, Touchstone Mental Health, will provide a range of support services to ensure tenants can remain stably housed. Cermak Rhoades Architects managed the project design. General Contractors are Watson Forsberg in partnership with TRI Construction. Broen Housing provided real estate development consulting. The Longfellow Community Council, Councilmember Cam Gordon, and Representative Jim Davnie welcomed the project to the neighborhood and provided letters of support.

“According to the Wilder Foundation’s 2015 homeless survey, seniors are the fastest growing segment of homeless people locally,” said Alliance Housing Inc. Executive Director, Barbara Jeanetta. “Alliance Housing was ahead of the curve when we conceived this project more than ten years ago. Our organization is uniquely positioned to successfully house this population because of our previous experience serving seniors in our rooming houses.” Jeanetta continued, “Our tenant service coordinators and property managers build trusting relationships with tenants, discuss problems, identify options for maintaining housing stability and increasing self-sufficiency, and assist tenants to choose their community services. It is a proven program, and we look forward to bringing this exciting new development and its related support services to serve seniors in south Minneapolis.”

Construction will begin in September 2018. To celebrate, Alliance Housing is hosting a groundbreaking event on Thursday, September 13th at 4 p.m. on the site. Invited and/or confirmed guests include the Commissioner of DHS, Emily Piper, and Councilmember Cam Gordon. A neighborhood historian will eulogize the homeless family that lost their lives when the McMahon Bar, the site of the new building, burned. And Alliance’s board chair, Ben Olk II, a Longfellow Community Council board member, and a potential future tenant of the property are also anticipated to be part of the program. The $10.8 million development is expected to be completed and fully leased by September 2019.

Funding for the project was provided by a variety of sources including a State of Minnesota Department of Human Services Live Well at Home grant, Minnesota Housing’s Housing Infrastructure Bonds and 4% tax credits. The City of Minneapolis’ Affordable Housing Trust Fund, Hennepin County’s Affordable Housing Incentive Fund, the Metropolitan Council’s Livable Communities Local Housing Incentives Account, and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines’s Affordable Housing Program also provided financial support. Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Thrivent, and the Sisters of Carondelet provided early acquisition and predevelopment support.

ABOUT ALLIANCE HOUSING, INC: Alliance’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: inclusive, affordable, relational, and, flexible. In addition, Alliance Housing challenges the environment that limits its residents’ opportunities. Neighbors and tenants alike say Alliance’s properties are the “best on the block.” For more information visit AllianceHousingInc.org.

Round-up for Alliance Housing

Posted on: May 11th, 2018

Knit 3 Together

Posted on: March 15th, 2018

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

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

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

 

Alliance is on board with Homes for All MN

Posted on: March 15th, 2018

Where we live impacts every aspect of our lives; the jobs we can access, the education our children receive and the wellbeing of our growing senior population.  One’s income and history of credit, housing and convictions effects where we live further – and for some is the reason for their homelessness.

Alliance Housing is one of some 170 organizations who have banded together to ensure:

  • There are homes for all stages in life,
  • To allow workers to be more productive and businesses to thrive,
  • And enable students to achieve in school.

Together, with a similar message, we’ll advocate for $140 million in bonds to create supportive rental housing, preserve housing with existing federal investments, promote homeownership through community land trusts and make improvements to the state’s public housing.

It is these type of bonds that are the basis of funding for Minnehaha Commons – Alliance’s project for adults over 55 years old with a history of homelessness.  While we won’t directly benefit from any new appropriation in the next year, we know from talking to people every day and for the 300 some adults and families on our “interest list” that there is a pressing need for more housing options today.   It also gives us a network to continue to influence unreasonable screening criteria and get more property owners back to the business of housing people.

Learn more at www.homesforallmn.org.  Follow the work on Twitter @Homes4AllMN.

Will the new tax bill affect Alliance’s donors?

Posted on: March 15th, 2018

The answer is a solid “depends.”

Some of our donors have told us that tax benefits didn’t drive their past gifts.  To others, it is important.  The tax overhaul passed at the end of 2017 changed a number of provisions that may or may not effect our donor’s charitable giving.  The standard deduction taxpayers are now allowed to take, without itemizing is $12,000 for singles and $24,000 for couples.  This larger standard deduction may remove the incentive to make charitable donations and itemize one’s deductions for a tax benefit.

Most of the other changes to the estate tax and limits on cash gifts are frankly not an issue for nearly all of the Alliance Housing current donors.  Donor Advised funds have gotten more popular and were unchanged.

Got advice for us?  We’re all ears.  Please email or call Barb Jeanetta at bjeanetta@alliancehousinginc.org or 612-879-7633.

A Stable Home Brings Many Other Benefits

Posted on: March 15th, 2018

Alliance Housing’s Golden Valley Road four-plex sits just two blocks from Wirth Parkway, a long stretch of park including wide-open green space, and biking and walking trails. It’s a serene setting, yet only a few blocks away from buses and convenient thoroughfares. The building is home to four families – seven adults and six children. It’s easy for the families to walk to the park for fresh air and exercise.

The residents of the four-plex appreciate that they are in a safe, well-kept building and neighborhood. It’s been a perfect environment for them to work on their goals as part of the Northside Supportive Housing for Families (NSHF) program. The focus of NSHF is moving families to economic independence so they will no longer need government supported housing. Although the program is ending, the four families are well-positioned to continue their success.

Tricia and Tyrone and their infant son joined the NSHF program in October of 2013. When their son starts kindergarten this fall, Golden Valley Road will be the only home he has known. This stability allowed Tricia and Tyrone to notice their son was struggling, and to get help for him. He was diagnosed with autism, but thanks to early and consistent intervention, he is learning and flourishing. When they complete their 5 years in the program, both Tricia and Tyrone will have achieved their goals of having bank accounts, improved credit, driver’s licenses, and a car.

In addition to the more tangible benefits of stable and affordable housing such as saving money, Tricia has grown in self-confidence and drive. She has taken on public speaking, proudly presenting on behalf of Alliance on two occasions. In her recent talk with the Minnesota Department of Humans Services staff, Tricia told the audience “I’m not stopping at $15 per hour. I want what you have – a salary and benefits.” This is a huge shift in mindset for Tricia, who was originally ambivalent about working.

Neighbors Starisha and Keith experienced a period of homelessness before moving into their Golden Valley Road home. It’s not surprising that their new-found stability is important to them. Starisha said, “Your whole life is stable if you have a home to go home to.” The couple has been in the program for 4 years. Starisha is getting her Associates Degree in Nursing at MCTC. Keith is working in banking. They have two daughters, and their oldest daughter started kindergarten at a performing arts school this year. The family has paid off most of their debt and is starting to build their credit.

Upstairs, Jinnifer is providing a safe and stable home for her high-school age daughter and 3-year old son. She is working on building her credit and plans to go to school this fall to begin a two-year nursing degree. She’ll get help with tuition from her employer, Hennepin County Medical Center. Her years of experience as a certified nursing assistant helped her get that good paying job and benefits at HCMC. Jinnifer’s two and a half years in the NSHF program have helped her build on her successes.

Across the hall, Angel and Alonzo are celebrating their longest stay in one apartment. They moved in 3 years ago. Leo, Alliance’s volunteer social worker, told the couple about the school choice program, and with Leo’s guidance, they were able to select a school that was a good fit for their kindergarten-aged daughter who loves school and is thriving.  Angel is pursuing an Associate Degree in business at MCTC and is applying those newly-learned skills working at MNDOT at a job she loves. Alonzo is starting a training program in building maintenance, so he can have job security and earn a living wage. In addition to their own hard work, Alonzo and Angel also credit Sue Roedl, Supportive Services Coordinator for NSHF, with their success. “Sue has been a terrific resource,” they said. “She’s been able to respond to what we need and help evaluate options.”

When you walk by Alliance’s Golden Valley Road four-plex, you see a clean, well-maintained building. Inside, it is filled with four families –  stable, safe, and moving forward. Alliance’s Northside Supportive Housing for Families has achieved its mission.

 

The Power of Second Chances

Posted on: December 27th, 2017

It’s hard to believe that Patrick ever had a first chance. At the Alliance Breakfast in 2016 he shared the story of his life. He grew up in a family of drug abusers as role models. When he became an adult, he himself predictably struggled with drugs, addiction, and homelessness. He was fortunate to enter Alliance Housing in August of 2015, living at 2011 Pillsbury. Living there, he could save some money, due to the low rent. Eventually, about a year ago, Patrick moved from 2011 Pillsbury to his own Alliance studio apartment.
We caught up with Patrick recently, to see how life is going now that he has a studio apartment. Although he had use of the kitchen facilities at 2011 Pillsbury, there was no convenient storage for his food. Patrick lived on the third floor, and after a long day of work, he was too tired to go up and down the stairs to make dinner. Hence, Patrick had been “eating out every single meal”, which isn’t healthy, and is very expensive. He would generally wake up and leave for work, and just come home to sleep.
Now that Patrick has his own kitchen, he proudly stocks his fridge, cooks in large quantities and stashes the leftovers for the future. Sometimes he even brings his homemade lunch to work. He relishes the sense of independence he gets from taking care of this basic need for himself. He eats out far less, and when he does, thinks of it as a luxury, not a necessity.
What has Patrick done with the money he has saved by not eating takeout for every meal?
One of the reasons for Patrick’s homelessness in the first place was addiction, caused by trying to find a way to soothe his chronic back pain. Now, with the money he saves by eating at home more often, Patrick can afford massages. So instead of self-medicating with illegal drugs, Patrick is using massage to treat his chronic pain.
Also, one of Patrick’s passions is music. He plays guitar, bass, piano, and drums. And he sings. Until recently, however, he was distracted by his own “horrible singing.” With the money he is saving by eating at home, Patrick is taking singing lessons. He uses the words “spiritual” and “edifying” to describe how it feels to find his own, better voice.
All this from simply being able to prepare his own food in his own Alliance home.

A 10 Year Old Project is Home to Many

Posted on: December 27th, 2017

Quiet Enjoyment
Hiawatha Commons, an Alliance Housing property at 2740 Minnehaha has been in operation since 2006. Louella Williams has been living there since the beginning.
Louella is a quiet person who tends to keep to herself, but she always smiles and greets her neighbors in the hall. Hiawatha Commons is a place that suits her quietness, but Louella also enjoys the busyness around her, with easy access to two bus lines, the light rail, and stores like Target and Cub within walking distance. For her, it’s a “well-centered location”.
Louella says that Hiawatha Commons is a “wonderful place to live in” and that “Erika and Jaclynn are excellent landlords who take pride in the building and make sure things are well-taken care of.” Louella also takes pride in living in the building, and takes building security very seriously. She makes sure that she doesn’t let strangers in, reinforcing building rules to always use a key when entering.
Louella says she has lived in other apartments, but that she experiences a stability at Hiawatha Commons that she hasn’t found in previous apartment buildings. She especially enjoys her cozy one bedroom and patio, and has no interest in moving anywhere else.

“We don’t do taxes, but we do pretty much everything else”
All jobs come with the phrase “other duties as assigned”. But site manager Erika Oberpriller, and her assistant property manager Jaclynn Melina put their heads, hands, and hearts into their work, and go beyond expectations in helping the Hiawatha Commons residents survive and thrive.
Erika Oberpriller has been the site manager for Hiawatha Commons since 2008, almost since the beginning. In those nine years, she has seen many things, but is especially gratified by the success stories, and by the way she and her staff have been able find unconventional ways to help their residents.
As a hard-working mother herself, Erika feels she has a special understanding of the struggles low-income people have, especially when it comes to raising a family. Residents see her as a mom, a keeper of the property, and as a person they can go to for advice.
Erika and Jaclynn have helped residents with confusing paperwork and in working through bureaucratic systems, such as immigration paperwork, and the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority. They have also dealt with residents’ previous landlords in getting back deposits and resolving landlord-tenant issues. Erika says, “We don’t do taxes, but we do pretty much everything else!”
Jaclynn said that they keep flexible hours so that they can help residents at odd hours. They let residents use their computers when they need to look something up, or print something out.
Staff has checked on apartments when people are out of town, and knocked on doors to alert residents that their cars are in danger of being towed. They have helped residents sign up for cable tv, or with cable tv problems.
Erika says, “someone is watching”, keeping an eye on residents, and stepping in when needed. She has found help for people with mental health issues, and often advocates for residents with unique needs and situations.
Keeping Hiawatha Commons clean and safe are top priorities. Erika and Jaclynn have provided cleaning supplies, and shown residents how to keep their apartments clean and organized. Jaclynn started working as a cleaner at Hiawatha Commons in 2010, and takes special pride in keeping the common areas spic and span. She continues to mop floors and keep an eye on things, even though she’s the assistant property manager and has increased duties far beyond cleaning.
Jaclynn and Erika ensure that resident children have a safe and friendly place to live. Occasionally a parent will call to say they are running late, and ask if their child can wait with staff after exiting the school bus. It may be a matter of just a few minutes, but knowing that staff is ready and willing to watch over the children is a great relief to parents. Some of the younger children in the building go to the day care on site, and some residents work at the daycare. These children are growing up in a building where there are other caring adults, besides their parents – a real bonus.
Because of all these amenities, Hiawatha Commons has a very low turnover rate, with at least 25% being original occupants. Former residents come back to visit, and want to move back in. People often start out in a studio, and as they become more stable and can afford it, move into a one bedroom. Then if their family grows, they often move into a two-bedroom. As an extra benefit, the two-bedroom apartments are set up for a roommate situation, so there are two bathrooms, and air conditioning units in each bedroom, which is very unusual in the low-income rental market.
Hiawatha Commons is a well-managed, sturdy, secure building. But for Erika, Jaclynn, and the staff, it’s more than a simple building. Hiawatha Commons is all about trying to help, and moving forward. It is a safe and welcoming place for over 200 residents. It takes hands to build a house, but only hearts can build a home.

Moving forward, and up, and out
Renisha Minus has lived at Hiawatha Commons for nine years. She moved in when she was 18 and pregnant with her first child. She had been living with her parents. Since this was her first move she had “no rental history, no record of responsibility.” But, she says, despite her lack of history, Alliance Housing “took a chance on me.”
Renisha of HC resized
She moved into a studio apartment, but has continued to expand her living space as her family has grown. She now shares a two-bedroom with her husband and three children. At one point, she moved out of Alliance Housing into a two-bedroom elsewhere, but it didn’t work out, so she returned to Hiawatha Commons and has been there ever since. She credits Erika Oberpriller, the site manager, with seeing her through lots of transitions. “Erika is the best,” says Renisha. “I can talk with Erika about anything. Her door is always open. I consider her a mentor.”” In addition to encouraging Renisha, Erika “whipped some sense into me”. Her Alliance living experience has “shaped and molded me. I have grown in the areas of responsibility, finance, and money management.”
Renisha thinks that Hiawatha Commons is a great building, close by everything, and a building where problems are handled. On her way to work, she often has friendly morning conversations with her neighbors and staff, which is a great start to her day. She says it “feels like a community, like family.” She mentioned that some of the children in the building go to the same school, which has helped build their friendships and strengthen the neighborhood feel of Hiawatha Commons.
Renisha reflected that she is older now, and “I understand now. I have seen myself come through a situation. I can be responsible. I know I can do it. I have confidence and determination. I can show my children and they can learn responsibility.”
Her hard work and experience has helped Renisha get ready for the next phase of her life. Although she doesn’t want to leave her home at Hiawatha Commons, she knows that someday she will be ready to buy her own home. But as Renisha says of her Hiawatha Commons experience, “I don’t think I’ll find that anywhere else.”

New on-line donation software takes smaller bite out of your donation

Posted on: December 14th, 2017

Alliance’s new on-line donation option, Vanco, charges 2.75% to process a credit card gift. This is a significant savings over the 6.9% our former processor charged. Please let us know if your experience is positive with this change. Thanks!

2017 Gift?

Posted on: December 14th, 2017

2011-Pillsbury_750If you have already made a gift to Alliance Housing in 2017, thank you. Your investment enables Alliance Housing to:
• Keep our rents affordable to low wage workers.
• Support services helping families exit poverty and avoid future homelessness.
• Keep our properties “the best on the block.”

If you haven’t, you can donate on-line here >
or by mailing us a check.
If you’re feeling extra grateful this year, consider assisting us by investing in the renovation of community space at our rooming house at 2011 Pillsbury. Pillsbury is home to 27 low income single adults, most who have experienced homelessness and other barriers to finding housing. 65% of residents are over the age of 55. To further accommodate resident gatherings and mitigate isolation, Alliance would like to renovate the basement space by updating the shared kitchen, adding a TV/game lounge and generally making the area feel a little more homey.
We’ve raised 43% of the $75,000 needed. The U of MN School of Architecture offered pro-bono design, retirees from IBEW (electricians) have committed their time and Alliance has socked away the rest. If you’d like to support community at 2011 Pillsbury, please consider a year-end designated gift.

100% of funds secured to build 43 studios for homeless adults

Posted on: November 2nd, 2017

Alliance Housing Fully Funded for Minnehaha Commons Project

43 units of affordable housing will be constructed for extremely low-income seniors.

Minneapolis, October 31, 2017:  Minnesota Housing announced on October 17th that $126 million will be invested in affordable housing across the state. Alliance Housing received $5,146,302 in deferred funds for Minnehaha Commons to be located on Lake Street in Minneapolis. With this award, the project is now fully funded. Other funders include the City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, the Metropolitan Council, the Federal Home Loan Bank, and private investors. Minnehaha Commons will provide 43 units of affordable housing, in partnership with Touchstone Mental Health, for extremely low-income seniors who have experienced homelessness.

According to the Wilder Foundation’s homeless survey, seniors are the fastest growing segment of homeless people. Alliance Housing is uniquely positioned to successfully house this population because of its previous experience serving seniors in rooming houses. Alliance’s tenant service coordinators and property managers build trusting relationships with tenants, discuss problems, identify options for maintaining housing stability and increasing self-sufficiency, and assist tenants to choose their community services.

Alliance Housing’s model offers a solution for housing stability for people who are traditionally denied housing opportunities because of their low-income, poor rental and criminal histories, and/or a history of homelessness. Homeless studies show that many homeless people also experience mental health symptoms. Supportive services designed to successfully house this population will be offered at Minnehaha Commons by Touchstone Mental Health through supports that utilize best practices, address underlying mental health conditions, and support whole person wellness and self-sufficiency.

Alliance’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: inclusive, affordable, relational, and, flexible. In addition, Alliance Housing challenges the environment that limits its residents’ opportunities. Neighbors and tenants alike say Alliance’s properties are the “best on the block.”

Alliance Housing’s 2017 Annual Fundraising Breakfast

Posted on: June 30th, 2017

Crowd shot resizedThanks to those of you who joined us for the 2017 Alliance Housing’s Annual Fundraising Breakfast on Sept. 28th.  Our guests, sponsors and donors helped us raise nearly $80,000 to support our work.  Pat, 2011 Pillsbury resident, shared how Alliance helped him when he was homeless and again after his stroke.  Until his stroke, Pat worked hard at D’Amico catering and helped refer other tenants to jobs.  Gloria, former tenant and Northside Supportive Housing for Families participant, shared her successes with Sue Roedl’s suport – a GED, increasing wages, better credit, training and now homeownership.  Gloria accomplished this as a single Mom of 5 kids.  Amazing!

 

Houses History & Hope – A benefit for Alliance Housing Inc.

Posted on: April 11th, 2017

Ben at Cream of Wheat houseAlliance Housing’s board chair hosted two walking tours around Lake of the Isles on May 14 and June 25th. 40-50 people joined us both days to learn more about the history of Minneapolis and its parks. A former history teacher, Olk shared stories and details about some of the stately houses around the lake. He talked about the people who designed, built and originally lived in them. In addition to these impressive homes, Olk also discussed how Minneapolis and its citizens have responded to the housing needs of those who are less fortunate. Guests also learned about Alliance Housing who has been creating housing alternatives for people in poverty and those on the margins for more than 25 years. Alliance makes it possible for individuals and families to create homes for themselves, regardless of income and background, by developing and managing housing that is inclusive, affordable, and relationship-based.
If you are interested in future tours feel free to contact Barb @ bjeanetta@alliancehousinginc.org or 612-879-7633.

Seven men share one common story of a second chance.

Posted on: December 1st, 2016

By Tessa Williams.

For the men living at our Fremont property, finding a safe, affordable place to live has never been easy. Seven of our residents here came to us through Better Futures (Better Futures is an immersive program that gives men who have experienced prison, poverty, homelessness and untreated disabilities the training and resources they need to become independent). These men are now enjoying having their own apartment for the first time in their lives. I sat down with three residents, JT, Greg and Michael, to hear what having their own apartment means to them. Their responses shared common themes of safety, peace and quiet, freedom, pride and dignity.
“There’s a yearn for privacy, especially as you get older and start to get to know yourself,” says JT, now 40 years old. Growing up, he says, “I never had my own bedroom and at times had no bedroom.” For JT, having his own apartment gives him a sense of peace and tranquility. “You can come home to a safe space to be by yourself after a long day… You have the ability to relax and decorate your apartment and let it mean something to you.” JT’s previous living situations give him a strong appreciation for a safe, peaceful environment. In one place he lived after prison, he paid rent for six month but estimates that he didn’t sleep in his room for more than three nights because it didn’t feel safe. In another, he paid a woman with a cocaine addiction about $300 a month to live in what he called “a closet.” For men of color with a criminal record like JT, rental screening for safe housing so often forces them into dangerous housing situations, often in the same environment that got them in trouble in the first place.
Greg also mentioned peace and quiet as one of the positives in living at Fremont. He says having his own apartment makes it easier to focus on school. In June, Greg completed an associate’s degree in culinary arts at Le Cordon Bleu. By February, he will also have an associate’s degree in pastry. The other men at Fremont love that Greg is studying pastry because he frequently brings home sweets to share with them. Right now he’s doing an externship at Cookie Cart, a nonprofit bakery in North Minneapolis. Greg also enjoys having his own key to the building and the dignity of being able to come and go as he pleases without a curfew. At 53 years old, Greg doesn’t like to stay out late, but he still appreciates the freedom to set his own schedule.
Just down the hall, Michael says having his own room gives him more flexibility when looking for work. When he shared a bedroom at the Better Futures guest house, his roommate would be getting ready for work when he was getting ready for bed. Now Michael has the freedom to take night shift jobs that pay better and still sleep well during the day. Another benefit of living at Fremont, Michael says, is that “you don’t have to worry about your neighbors.” He likes that he knows the other men from Better Futures and that the guys look out for each other. But the change that mattered most to Michael was the confidence that came with paying rent. At 53, Michael had never had his own apartment, and he felt it was a stepping stone to adulthood he had yet to reach. “When it’s something you’ve never done, you’re really scared you’re going to mess up,” Michael said. After he paid his first month’s rent, Michael felt a huge weight lifted off his shoulders. After a few months, he says, it feels pretty manageable.
I asked Greg, JT and Michael where they see themselves in the future. Greg says he might move back to Chicago to take care of his mother in a few years. But as long as he stays in the Twin Cities, Greg sees himself staying at Fremont—the rent is the most affordable for what Alliance offers, and like Michael, he likes knowing his neighbors. JT is grateful for his apartment but aspires to own his own house. He recently started his own roofing and gutter business, and if business stays as good as it’s been lately, his dream could well become a reality. Michael says he would like to look into some programs self-improvement. While Greg, JT and Michael are all at different points in their lives, with different interests and aspirations, it’s clear that they all share an appreciation for a safe home and a second chance.

2016 Annual Report

Posted on: September 27th, 2016

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

Alliance 2016 Annual Report

 

Alliance AR Final cover

Patricia Anne Smith Neir Memorial

Posted on: September 1st, 2016

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

A Life Ended Too Soon

Posted on: July 12th, 2016

Thank you to Lawrence Young, a neighbor, who shared this store about Dwayne.

Thirty years of oblivion. That’s what most of us would consider the last half of the life of Dewayne Fleming, most commonly known as Brillo on the streets of Minneapolis. But after being shot and stabbed more than once, that is not the term that he would use to describe it. Being kidnapped and locked in a trunk for days only adds to the color of the man who told me “I like my women so black they just short of blue.”
We met after Dewayne was released from Hennepin County hospital where he had spent a considerable amount of time being treated for congestive heart failure. When I visited him there I could see when his memory kicked in and he recognized me. I hadn’t seen him in years but I could tell he had something funny to say but the tubes he was attached to kept him from talking. That’s the first and last time I ever saw him at a loss for words.
I became Dewayne’s neighbor and moved into a place across the hall from him. Everyday we spent hours in the kitchen sharpening each other across the table with our experiences and wisdom until breakfast was ready. We had the best soul kitchen in the city. We were the bean and cornbread brothers and it was doing good things for the both of us. Dewayne lost weight and seemed to be improving in health. Although he was confined to a certain part of town for a long time, his conversation covered the universe. His comments didn’t come from out of left field but the other side of the cotton field where truth was spoken and it trumped feelings. His views were raw and as he understood it. He loved to tell me ways of outsmarting or maneuver any obstacle the system could offer.
It was during one of these sessions that I realized I was talking to my medical advisor. I had injuries from an auto accident and had no idea how to negotiate the medical field, which was to me, a quagmire between someone who needs treatment and the medical and insurance fields. One day as I was leaving on my quest for treatment Dewayne stopped me and said, “You bout to walk into the lions’ den wearing bacon underwear. Take me with you and do what I tell you and we’ll get all that done today.”
When I got back home I had everything I needed to start my recovery. He explained not only the mechanics of how these fields work but the psychology of them. He made me understand that the medical field was full of hoops to jump through guaranteed to frustrate the insincere and timid as well as those in need. He explained job titles and what the duties behind them were supposed to be. He was like my personal PHD on the subject.
Whenever we went somewhere in my car I felt like I was driving Denzel Washington around. Waves and acknowledgements came from everybody that saw him along the way. Every stop light meant a conversation with someone in the next car, on the street corner, or on the bus stop. He was a bonafide celebrity.
Brother Bishop, as some of us called him, was crude but unpretentious. He always told me to count my blessings and not my troubles. He was the absolute funniest man I ever met while expressing sage wisdom at the same time. He told me he’d had a beautiful life because God hadn’t let him die from all the tribulation he’d been through. All his anecdotes were about his experiences on the streets. He had made his peace with God but his mind couldn’t escape the last 30 years. One Saturday, after 30 years of living everywhere, Bishop Dewayne Fleming died AT HOME.

Advocacy: Be the Change You Seek

Posted on: April 4th, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tenant Profile: LaToya

Posted on: April 4th, 2016

Melanie & LaToya 1LaToya’s energetic spirit and hopeful attitude are contagious from the moment you meet her. She is a working mother who is passionate about making her neighborhood in North Minneapolis a safe and loving community for her children and neighbors. She is involved with community boards and plans to work on Keith Ellison’s campaign in the upcoming months, helping get her neighbors and friends registered to vote. She is in conversations with a community council about getting a youth center built in the Harrison neighborhood. LaToya has faith that North Minneapolis can and will become a thriving community, one where people can feel safe and friendly with their neighbors.

LaToya works at a printing and bindery company part time while going to school and is hoping to get a job at the Guthrie Theater in the upcoming months to have a shorter commute, better hours, and to help connect her friends with the arts. Her three children are doing well, with her oldest two getting straight A’s and helping get their younger brother off to school in the morning while LaToya is at work. She is grateful and proud that one of her daughters received a district scholarship to attend Space Camp in Houston, TX, a dream she has had for years.

Positivity is one of the many reasons LaToya is where she is today; getting to this place of hope hasn’t been easy. This March, she proudly celebrated one year with our Northside Supportive Housing for Families program (NSHF), and her many milestones and plans for the future show how much housing stability has made a difference in her life. Just over a year ago, LaToya was living in an abandoned house, unstable and afraid, with her children living with their grandmother. She recalls meeting with her son, unable to afford dinner at a restaurant so she took him to a soup kitchen instead, hoping he wouldn’t know the difference. After spending 40 days in a family shelter, she got a low wage job and applied for our NSHF program.

Since being in the program, with her coach Melanie’s encouragement, she has enrolled in a 12-week program at Twin Cities Rise that focuses on empowerment, employment readiness, and permanent full-time employment. Since completing the first session of the program in March, LaToya has developed a very supportive professional network at Twin Cities Rise and is looking forward to participating in a paid internship that may lead to full-time employment. She is thriving in the program and has a goal of becoming an empowerment coach herself.

LaToya will be the first to admit that it took her a while to even apply for the program at Twin Cities Rise. Two months into the program with Alliance, LaToya shut Melanie out—“I was still living in fear and didn’t believe I was really safe again. It really took the support from Alliance, when I did finally talk to Melanie, to realize that I no longer needed to be afraid.” Through Melanie’s persistent approach, LaToya began to trust her and started to believe things were going to be okay. With a year of housing stability, she has started letting go of her fear, and from that has come a fountain of hope. “Since I’ve let go of my fear, I’ve been doing so much better. Now I can say, let’s figure out what’s for dinner tonight, when a year ago I wasn’t even eating.”

LaToya’s hope is what keeps her going. As she says, “It hasn’t always been an easy ride,” but despite this she has kept moving forward. The changes she has been able to make in the past year give LaToya hope that she can continue on this path for success in her own life, while also playing her part in making her larger community a safe and loving place.

The Next Big Endeavor

Posted on: April 4th, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Homeless adults, aged 55+

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

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

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

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

Single adults (men and women) with extremely low incomes

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

Homeless families with extremely low incomes

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

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

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

Tenant Profile: Selena

Posted on: December 8th, 2015

Selena and Shaun

 

 

Selena has a lot to be proud of. She works full time as a Credit Advisor at Target Corporate, making $15.50 an hour, while raising her son, Sean, who just turned two in November. She graduated from Roosevelt High School in Gary, Indiana in 2011, has a degree in cosmetology, and moved to Minneapolis in May of 2014. In June 2014, Selena came to our program when she found herself without a home. Although she had experienced homelessness as a child, this was her first time encountering homelessness as an adult. While at the shelter, Selena met Melanie, who works with our Northside Supportive Families Program, and got accepted into the program, working at both Target and the Children’s Place for $8.20 an hour.

Unhappy with the late hours and low wage, Selena left her retail jobs for a position with Wells Fargo. After being with Wells Fargo for six months, she applied for a job with Target Corporate and got accepted to the position she now has, which she loves. Making nearly double what she earned at the start of the program, Selena has been able to pay off $1,000 in debt, while budgeting money to save for a car. She is proud to have raised her credit score, and that she has enough discipline to pay off what debt she still has left. Having the past experience of raising her credit score, she is calm despite recent bumps in the road, knowing that she has the skills needed to manage her money and get back to where she wants to be. She’s also started couponing, and managing her money makes her hopeful that she’ll be sufficient on her own.

One quote Selena goes by is, “think rich, look poor.” As she describes it, “Right now, (living this way), it’s only temporary— save, reach your goals to do what you dream of. Right now you don’t have to buy all of the fancy materials, but live within your means and plan for the future. I’m thinking for the future rather than living rich now. That’s what a lot of people do, I’m trying to do the opposite.”

Although she isn’t currently using her cosmetology degree, she is working on getting licensed in Minnesota so she can have the career she dreams of. She’s proud to be saving and building a cushion of stability through her career at Target, while watching Sean grow up and become “this new person”, a sometimes bossy two year old who loves the word “mine”.

More than anything, Selena is hopeful for stability. “I hope for stability, that’s all I hope for. I just want my kid to be in a good school and for me to be able to provide for the both of us.”

What Sets Us Apart

Posted on: November 12th, 2015

Alliance Housing is 25 years old.  Though many things have changed over time such as staff, leadership, office address, and numbers of properties owned. Our mission and values have remained steadfast.  We believe the totality of the following attributes are what sets us apart from most housing agencies and organizations, and make us good stewards of the gifts we’ve received over the years from many generous individuals and foundations.

  • We’re in the business of housing people – not screening them out. Everyone deserves a 2nd
  • Our operations and decision making begins with the lives and realities of our tenants – balanced with the bottom line. We’ve kept our rents some of the most affordable in the market.
  • Our resources primarily cover property management operations and tenant services – not administration, fundraising and marketing. We’re lean and effective.
  • Our supportive housing program rewards people for working. Coaching helps parents learn new skills that can help them sustain housing and advance in employment long term.

Remaining committed to these attributes has allowed us to establish a critical niche in the affordable housing world. That may sound like standard nonprofit marketing claims but we’ve got evidence to back it up.  Our phones ring off the hook from people who are denied housing because of their criminal, housing or credit history.  A quick survey of our scattered site rental property tenants indicates that up to  70% have criminal issues in their background.  Many of these tenants have also been homeless or stuck in low wage jobs.  Because they’ve been poor, many have eviction, unpaid rent and other bills in their past.  Alliance’s 2nd chance policy gives them the opportunity to prove they can be a good tenant.  And most are, – they pay their rent, mostly on time, and respect their apartment and neighbors.  As a result, our uncollected rent and loss from vacant units is under 5%.

Our tenant’s wellbeing is a core focus in everything we do, from budget changes to our board selection processes.  At budget preparation time, the board is always cognizant of the impacts any rent related changes will have on our tenants, especially those living on fixed incomes.  Tenants have a direct voice in board decisions because they make up 25% of its members.

In regards to use of our resources, our audit has tracked our expenses over the years to be around 94% programs, 4% management and 2% fundraising.  Our management and fundraising percentages have never been higher than 8%.

Our 34 families who are participating in our Northside Supportive Housing for Families program are demonstrating higher wages and monthly income the longer they participate.  They earn a $200-$300 monthly subsidy when they are working 25-35 hours per month.  This gives them a cushion in their monthly budget which helps with saving money and paying off old bills.  Some of them are experiencing the longest tenure in housing and employment.  In more traditional public rent assistance programs, their subsidies would be higher if they were unemployed – creating (we believe) a disincentive to work.

Meet Our Tenant: Sandra Mosley

Posted on: November 10th, 2015

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Sandra Mosley has been with Alliance Housing since 2007. She currently lives in one of the studio apartments, having come from one of the shared duplexes. She moved to Minneapolis from her hometown of Chicago in 1998.

Sandra was working at Mystic Lake seven years ago, and lost her job. She struggled with illness and surgery. She had no job and no place to call home. She was homeless, staying at 1010 Currie.

While working at a temp agency, she was sent to the Star Tribune on a work assignment. She was tired of working temp jobs and so asked a worker there if he would give her a reference. He agreed, and the next day she was called in for an interview which led to a part time job with the company.

One of her co-workers at the temp agency was renting a room with Alliance Housing and told her about us. She called Bob, (our south side property manager) and was offered a room where she lived for 5-6 years before moving into her own studio apartment. Sandra currently works full time at the Mall of America, and keeps a very tidy, comfortable, and homey place.

Sandra says; “I am blessed—Alliance Housing helps you keep housing, they are flexible and understanding. I am glad to be here, I appreciate them. When I was at my lowest, Alliance Housing was there for me. I want to say, Thank you.”

2015 Annual Report

Posted on: September 21st, 2015

Alliance’s 2015 Annual Report is here! You can learn more about Alliance’s accomplishments and plans, and our amazing tenants and volunteers by clicking on the link below.

Alliance 2015 Annual Report

 

Alliance AR Final cover

Annual Fundraising Breakfast

Posted on: September 3rd, 2015

Thank you to the 170+ guests who joined us on October 8th for our Alliance Housing annual fundraising breakfast.  Tenants, Greg Mure and Brenda Connell, stole the show by sharing their stories and how stable housing has helped them move forward in their lives.  Thanks to our terrific and generous sponsors who along with our guest’s generous donations and matches from the Pohlad Family and Frey Foundation matches exceed our fundraising goal.

We depend on the generosity of donations to allow us to keep our rents affordable to very low wage workers and disabled adults – many of whom would be seriously challenged to find housing elsewhere.  Gifts also support our innovative Northside Supportive Housing for Families program – providing housing subsidies that incent work, not unemployment.

Rooming Houses Are an Important Part of the Affordable Housing Patchwork

Posted on: April 16th, 2015

By Barbara Jeanetta, Executive Director of Alliance Housing Inc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hands on Twin Cities Volunteer Expo

Posted on: April 7th, 2015

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

AIA design charrette & Beltrami

Posted on: April 7th, 2015

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

Lynne’s departure

Posted on: April 7th, 2015

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

A Family Bequest

Posted on: April 7th, 2015

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

 

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

 

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

We’ve Got A Lot to Celebrate!

Posted on: April 7th, 2015

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

 

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

 

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

New Sites!

Posted on: January 8th, 2015

Funding and re-development plans continue for a project to serve homeless adults, 55 years and older. Alliance staff are evaluating the re-use of a building at 201 Lake Street or a vacant lot to provide safe and secure housing as a base for a better quality of life for these folks. St. Stephens Human Service’s Community Engagement Team assisted Alliance in hosting a focus group of older adults who had experienced homelessness. We plan to use their wise advice to guide or work on this project. If you have ideas or advice to help us advance the project, please call or email Barb.

New Board Members!

Posted on: January 8th, 2015

Alliance is led by 14 members of our Board of Directors. Miranda Walker and Mike Brown joined the group in October. Miranda is an emerging leader in the affordable housing development world. Mike is a seasoned marketing and communications professional. They join a group that contributes management, legal, and finance skills along with a deep understanding of our tenants and neighborhoods where our properties are located.  Other members include:

 

Gail Dorfman, Kelly Elkin, Dean LeDoux, Carolyn Landrum, Chas Martin, Greg Mure, Fran Neir, Rick Nelson, Ben Olk III, Peter Sarafolean III, Marcy Shapiro and Kimberly Spates.

New Mattresses!

Posted on: January 8th, 2015

Twenty new mattresses were delivered on December 10th for tenants at 2011 Pillsbury. Rooms are furnished with a bed, dresser, nightstand, lamp and other useful and gently used donated furniture and household items. Most of our new tenants have little to their name upon move in. The current 8 year old mattresses had seen their day. New tenants are given a quilt donated by our friends at Peace Presbyterian Church.  Rooms quickly become home.

Thank You for Attending our Annual Breakfast!

Posted on: January 8th, 2015
One hundred sixty of our best and new friends gathered at the Town and Country Club on October 23rd to talk with each other, catch up, and hear a brief update on Alliance Housing’s programs, housing and operations. When tenant, Starisha Alexander, with her two young children in tow told about how they ended up homeless and couldn’t find housing due to a poor rental history, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Starisha is caring for the kids full-time while her husband works. She recently secured a part-time position that will allow her to work when her husband is home. Starisha thanked Alliance for giving she and her family a 2nd chance, for the beautiful and affordable apartment, and for providing work incentives that allow them to save money and pay down debt. We raised $69,000 including a generous match from the Frey Foundation.
You may have noticed that we don’t have a slick fundraising operation here at Alliance. We raise $74,000 in individual contributions and $124,500 from foundations to keep rents affordable to low wage workers and for services so that people can remain stably housed and advance their lives. The Executive Director with help from staff and board members organize events,write grants, and solicit donations through e-newsletters and an annual report. Otherwise, we balance our budget with rents and some public support of services. So needless to say, we’re thrilled with that breakfast tally. A gift of any size makes a valued and real contribution to our work. We are grateful to our 200+ individual donors who faithfully and generously keep us in their charitable investments each year.

One Families’ Journey

Posted on: January 8th, 2015

Makeesha and her children have lived in an Alliance duplex in south Minneapolis since December 2009. Early on, Makeesha felt it was more important to raise her children attentively than work. She got by on a combination of MFIP, food support and one of the kid’s monthly disability payment. The budget was tight but they got by and kept current on their rent and other bills.

 

Once the kids were high school age, Makeesha decided it was time for a change. She got her GED, and found work at Mystic Lake, making about $11.50/hour in food service, 2nd shift. It was the first job she had in years, and she loved the sense of economic independence it gave her. The casino is a long way from home though. She could ride the shuttle bus to and from work for free, but at times it meant getting to work hours before her shift started, and she was fearful of walking home from the bus stop late at night. So, Makeesha purchased a new car to go with her new job. The payments were daunting but she loved the feeling that she had “made it”.

 

It wasn’t long before Makeesha started to think that she may have taken on too much, too fast. She struggled to keep up with the bills. She was involved in a car crash, totaled the car and was out of work for a time. Fortunately, Makeesha suffered only minor injuries and insurance paid off her car loan. Property manager, Bob Bono, worked with her on a rent payment plan until she got back on her feet.

 

As with most of our tenants who we give a little breathing room, Makeesha is back to work now, getting caught up with her rent. She has another car, old but affordable. The kids are doing well. The family is looking forward to the holidays and the new year. It may bring a few more bumps in the road of “making it on your own” but they feel optimistic they’re on the right track.

Our New Year’s Resolutions…

Posted on: January 8th, 2015

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

Season Greetings from All of Us at Alliance Housing Inc!

Posted on: January 8th, 2015

We are grateful here at Alliance Housing. Ecoset Consulting donated 25 Christmas trees for families who are participating in Alliance’s Northside Supportive Housing for Families program. Two participants, Avery Webb and Tricia Smith, assisted Sue Roedl in delivering them to the homes of the families. The program helps homeless families break the cycle of generational poverty. Families exit shelter, learn to be good tenants and increase their income and education so that they can become economically self-sufficient. This is a long and rocky road for many. A little Christmas cheer never hurts. I am grateful for Sue Roedl, lead Supportive Services Coordinator of the program, who saw a posting for the donation and coordinated it from start to finish, including renting a truck and delivering the trees to each family. Sue’s work is testament to all Alliance employees and “the extra mile” they all go to assure our tenants remain stably housed, have access to resources and information to live independently and advance their lives, and keep our properties operating as the best on the block. I’m grateful that we have tenant participants that are willing to “give back”, as well.

 

We are grateful to all of you who take notice of our work, donate your time or resources and tell your friends about us. If you would like to learn more about us, tour a property, talk with staff or get engaged in some other way, please do not hesitate to call or email me.

 

Barbara J

Is Fair Housing Fair?

Posted on: January 7th, 2015

It depends on who you are.  Fair housing laws were created in 1968 to make sure landlords treated all potential tenants the same with screening procedures, tenant selection and application fees.  HUD hires people to test out fair housing laws and prosecutes those who aren’t treating applicants fairly.

I’d like to challenge the framework of fair housing rules where they are used to screen out certain classes and groups of people based on their criminal, credit and housing history.  While past behavior can be a good predictor of future behavior, it doesn’t allow for life circumstances or give someone a second chance to behave differently in the future.  I believe that the opportunity to get a second chance should be a cornerstone in the philosophy of all affordable housing developers and managers.  We use public dollars to serve people with low incomes, and people who for one reason or another face challenges in securing stable housing, because of a disability, a history of homelessness, or simply a history of poor decisions.

Let me offer a few examples of where I don’t think fair housing is fair.  Many affordable housing managers have a list of criminal issues that will screen out various types of felony offenses for a year, or five years, or ten years, or for life.  These are persons who have done their time and, in many cases, their probation or parole.  Nonetheless, they must continue to “serve time” by being barred from housing opportunities.  Police department crime prevention units exacerbate the problem by encouraging landlords to bar former criminals from their rental property.

Let’s say you are someone with a history, ready to turn your life in the right direction. If you are lucky enough to make it past the criminal background check, a landlord will most  likely  review your credit and housing history.  If you’ve been poor, you’ve probably not paid credit cards timely and likely had to give up an apartment because you couldn’t keep up with the rent.  Most recently, we’ve seen tenants facing a Catch-22 situation. Potential landlords insist that an applicant pay off a previous landlord for rent delinquencies before they will rent to them.   I am sympathetic to some extent; we all want to rent to people that will pay rent on time.  But we also know that there are myriad processes, both informal and legal, that a landlord can use to terminate the lease of a tenant delinquent on rent.  It should be within the scope of our mission to give someone a second chance, because it is possible to get them to voluntarily or legally move if they don’t.

Public resources to build affordable housing are scarce.  Competition to be awarded them is fierce.  I think most public funders want to prioritize the most needy.  Yet, best practices of property management, including  exclusionary tenant screening done in the name of fair housing, encourages just the opposite – excluding the most needy in favor of the least problematic.

Alliance Housing relies on relational property management and has almost no tenant screening criteria.  We take referrals from homeless shelters and other social service providers.  We house those other landlords screen out.  We know our tenants by name, know the ups and downs of their life, and work with them to keep them stably housed.  Our mantra, coined by our former Director, Herb Frey, is, “We’ll house you as long as you pay your rent (mostly on time) and behave yourself.”  We believe this is our mission.  If more landlords lived our mission, it would make many more housing units available without spending the money to build another unit.

Alliance Housing a New Chapter

Posted on: October 15th, 2014

new-developmentAlliance Housing Inc. is like an enduring classic novel. Its theme or story line remains unchanged. Give people a second chance. Rent to individuals and families with a history of homelessness, at the bottom end of the wage scale, and those who have often been screened out due to their rental or criminal history by other landlords. Make it work with simple expectations – pay rent mostly on time and behave as a good neighbor and tenant. Keep property management relational and lean. Develop new properties and rehab existing properties with no amortizing debt. Reach out to donors like yourselves to help us keep rents 15-25% below market so that our tenants can remain stably housed, retain jobs and get their kids to school. 2014 was a year of transition for Alliance Housing Inc. The board of directors stewarded the organization through a leadership change. To continue the book metaphor, it appears existing funders, partners and contributors have turned the page to the new chapter with us. The next real estate development chapter also contains some old and new. In the last chapter, some funding was raised for Jordan Apartments and a property to house homeless adults, aged 55+. Both have existing funding commitments from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines. In addition, Jordan has some funding from the City of Minneapolis and the 55+ project has funding from the Sisters of Carondelet and Mount Olive Lutheran Church. Opportunities and need abound. The board of directors used part of its August 2014 planning session to begin to provide focus and priority to future projects.

The Cover

Posted on: October 15th, 2014

the-coverA classic needs to have enduring qualities AND look good on the shelf to attract readers. We work hard to keep our properties “the best on the block.” In the last few months, we rebuilt a crumbling retaining wall at 2103 2nd Avenue S (pictured) and paved the parking area behind 3631 Penn Avenue N. Our maintenance staff faithfully keeps lawns mowed, landscaping weeded and trim, and snow removed. Occasionally, we get a little help picking up trash – the Longfellow Neighborhood engaged the VOA to clean up litter around the neighborhood and visited Hiawatha Commons this spring.

The Marketplace

Posted on: October 15th, 2014

In August 2014, Alliance increased its rents 2%. The board considered this decision in the context of the rental market, property cash flow and our tenantsʼ ability to pay. We donʼt take these decisions lightly. A $10 increase per month is a big challenge to someone living on a disability pension or someone whose low wage and fluctuating hours keep the monthly budget tight. A recent study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition analyzed how many hours a minimum wage worker had to work in order to afford an average cost 2 bedroom apartment. In MN, it was 91 hours per week. Alliance rents rooms with shared bath and kitchen facilities, studios and 1-3 bedroom apartments. A minimum wage worker would have to work 42 hours in a month to afford a room and 117 hours in a month to afford a 3 bedroom unit – well below the averages.