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Apartment building for seniors facing homelessness to open in 2018

Posted on 21 November 2017 by calvin

Funding puzzle falls into place for Minnehaha Commons, a 43-unit building operated by Alliance Housing

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
Minnehaha Commons, a four-story apartment building for seniors struggling with homelessness, is now fully funded and on track for construction in 2018.

The building (formerly called Frey Flats) will be constructed on the vacant lot at 3001 E. Lake St. and offer 43 studio units to single adults age 55 and over. The land was once home to McMahon’s Pub, which burnt down in March 2010, killing six people in the apartments above the bar.

Illustration right: Minnehaha Commons, a four-story apartment building for seniors struggling with homelessness, is now fully funded and on track for construction in 2018. The building (formerly called Frey Flats) will be constructed by Alliance Housing, Inc. on the vacant lot at 3001 E. Lake St. and offer 43 studio units to single adults age 55 and over. (Illustration submitted)

For many, the new apartment building is a fitting way to continue to shelter the same people who once rented low-cost apartments above McMahon’s Pub.

Only this time around, the units will be managed by a non-profit that’s well known in the community for maintaining a high standard of housing.

Alliance Housing was born out of the vision of St. Stephens’ Catholic Church with the goal of creating tangible, long-term housing solutions for homeless families and individuals.

The nonprofit (not religious affiliated) organization was incorporated in 1991 and took advantage of vacant and available properties at low cost in South Minneapolis. Alliance works with people who either can’t afford the high market-rate rents or who have difficulty renting because of a prior eviction, poor financial history, or criminal background.

Alliance’s programs and activities include affordable housing development and management, as well as supportive housing programming for families. Its 450 units of housing serve a continuum of single adults to families.

Waiting a year for housing
According to Alliance Housing Inc. (AHI) Executive Director Barbara Jeanetta, the interest list for single adult housing is over 200, and the wait is up over one year.

Fifty-eight-year-old Carl Rogers knows what it is like to wait a year to get housing. He spent the last year homeless, bouncing between shelters and the streets before he got into an Alliance boarding house.

He finds that many people assume you’ve done something to be homeless and that you’re homeless for a reason. But for Rogers, it’s hard to find work because of his disability and criminal record. That, combined with his race, makes it hard to find housing, as well.

“I think there are a lot of people like me who end up being homeless. A lot of times, they can’t find an affordable place in the area,” said Rogers, who is grateful to now have a place where he pays $335 a month for a room. “I consider myself one of the lucky ones.”

Southside resident Charles MacMillan, age 57, has also found it difficult to find housing he can afford, despite having a job. “The thing about Alliance is they’re willing to work with you even if you have a criminal record,” said MacMillan, who rents a duplex with two others. He pointed out he’s been clean from alcohol and drugs for 17 years and doesn’t expect a handout. “It’s a place to start out to help you get better in your life,” he observed about Alliance.

Number of homeless seniors is growing
Rogers and MacMillan are among the growing number of adults over 55 who are facing homelessness in Hennepin County. The problem is expected to get worse as the number of Baby Boomers over 55 grows in the next decade.

“Last I checked, there were approximately 1,200 homeless adults over age 55 that are homeless (shelter stays),” said Jeanetta. “It’s likely higher given the number of people who bounce around with friends or stay outside.”

Jeanetta has found that most people don’t understand the level of chronic homelessness among adults over 55.

“Many of these adults have never had a place of their own or certainly not for many years,” said Jeanetta. “There is a high level of alcoholism and mental illness. Housing has proven to mitigate the problems from both.”

Alliance plans to have a capable, experienced service provider on staff at Minnehaha Commons through Touchstone Mental Health that can address underlying mental health conditions, and support whole person wellness and self-sufficiency.

There are good examples of how stable housing and a supportive community environment are a foundation for a more positive lifestyle and opportunity to make other positive change. The lack of it leads to other chaos.

A 2012 report sponsored by the Family Housing Fund, “Financial Implications of Public Interventions on Behalf of a Chronically Homeless Family” documented significant savings of public dollars in emergency medical care, foster care, substance abuse treatment and incarceration when people have stable and supportive housing.

In addition, these elder adults are easy victims of assault, theft and other crime that further sets back opportunities for stability.

A shelter bed at Hennepin County cost $30 a day. A hospital stay at Hennepin County Medical Center for alcohol/drug use treatment is a minimum of $4,169 a day. A night in jail is $378 per day.

A room at an Alliance Housing facility costs $9-15 a day.

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 and 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. Alliance Housing also challenges the environment that limits its residents’ opportunities. Neighbors and tenants alike say Alliance’s properties are the “best on the block.”

Alliance also manages Hiawatha Commons (2740 Minnehaha Ave.) in Longfellow, a four-story, brick apartment building located a short walk from the Hiawatha Light Rail station on Lake St. This transit-oriented, mixed-income project was designed for low-wage workers who work in the neighborhood or at the airport, Mall of America and downtown. The building was opened in 2006, and its 80 units stay leased consistently.

Minnesota Housing recently announced that Alliance Housing would receive $5,146,302 in deferred funds for Minnehaha Commons. Other funders include the city of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, the Metropolitan Council, the Federal Home Loan Bank, and private investors.

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