Our faith calls us to ensure every person in our community has a safe, decent and affordable place to call home. We answer this call in many ways. We provide basic necessities through collections to food shelves and work with Habitat for Humanity to build affordable homes. We educate to change community attitudes and advocate for public policies that will expand and preserve the supply of affordable housing, shelter beds and supportive housing. We supported the Homes for All Campaign 2013 Legislative Agenda which supported proven programs that stabilize families, prevent homelessness and create workforce housing. We supported the Homes for All Campaign 2014 Legislative Agenda which succeeded in passing a $100 million housing bonding bill to support affordable housing across Minnesota. Now, we are supporting the Homes for All Campaign 2015 Legislative Agenda, requesting an increase in $39 million for affordable housing and supportive services for homelessness. Learn more about the Minnesota Housing Project: Homes for All.
Youth living in homelessness is a concern of emerging interest of the congregation. We are educating ourselves about the extent of this problem in Minnesota and have begun exploring partnerships with organizations working directly with these youth. Our new relationship with Augsburg Fairview Academy, a local charter high school, is an important step in this direction.
Housing Justice Projects
- Augsburg Fairview Academy: First Universalist is the primary partner in the development of The Hope Closet at this local charter high school. The Hope Closet is a project led by the students at AFA to build and maintain a food and clothing shelf for their students living in homelessness or in dangerous or unhealthy situations.
- Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative: First Universalist began partnering with Beacon Interfaith Housing’s Families Moving Forward program in Fall 2015. The program serves families experiencing homelessness; they spend the daytime at their center looking for jobs and permanent housing, and First Universalist provides them with hot meals and a safe place to stay overnight. Five families arrived Sept. 6 for our first week of hosting in classrooms converted into “mini-homes.” Volunteers from First Universalist help convert classrooms, serve as evening and overnight hosts, serve breakfast, make and pack lunches, and provide financial support with cash or in kind donations – everything from color crayons to air mattresses to food.
- Habitat for Humanity: First Universalist is a major contributor to the Habitat 2013-2015 Strategic Plan, providing needed funds and volunteers to help them accomplish their goals. Coming out of the housing crisis, too many Twin Cities families didn’t have a safe, decent affordable place to call home. One in eight Minnesota households spends more than 50 percent of their income on housing needs. Due to this cost burden, families sacrifice other necessities, including healthcare and food. Minnesota will need more than 51,000 new affordable homes by 2020. Getting families into a stable home leads to better education outcomes, fewer dropouts, healthier kids, increased job prospects, more community engagement and safer neighborhoods. These are the broad strategies Habitat is taking to address these challenges:
- Concentrating work in the hardest hit neighborhoods
- Partnering closely with neighborhood and community members
- Setting the goal of serving 5,800 families through core programs
- Leading the call for affordable housing through advocacy work
- Preparing for the future by attracting more volunteer and donors to its mission
- Habitat Fast Facts
In 2014, First Universalist Church came together for The House That Love Built, raising over $100,000 to sponsor a Habitat home in the Jordan neighborhood of north Minneapolis. Families and individuals came together to support, fund, and build this house, and in November 2014, Maikee and her five young children moved into their new home. Maikee, with a Habitat mortgage, is buying her home and building a better future for her family. Our congregation continues our multi-year commitment to volunteer at Habitat work sites. In addition, several congregants act as Neighborhood Family Partners to new Habitat homeowners in their first year in their new home.
- Hats for the Homeless: This ad-hoc and deeply committed group of knitters meet regularly to knit items for people living in homelessness.
- Homes for All Campaign: This campaign is made up of over 40 organizations and 30 additional congregations working together on a common legislative agenda is an emerging interest of the congregation. Habitat for Humanity is our lead organization on this advocacy project.
- Simpson Services: Cooking, serving and eating home-cooked meals with the residents of Simpson Shelter is a family friendly activity that we commit to at least 8-10 times a year.
How to get involved
We value your interest and talent! There are lots of ways to be involved in our housing justice work, from collecting portable food items for Augsburg Fairview to swinging a hammer at Habitat or becoming an advocate with the Homes for All Campaign. For more information contact the Housing Justice Leadership Team through Rev. Justin Schroeder at email@example.com or 612-825-1701.
Four Key issues related to Housing Justice
1. The Need for Affordable Housing
The need for affordable housing is growing while the resources to meet that need are shrinking. Nearly one third of all Minnesota residents spend more than 30% of their income on housing. Key priorities of the MN Housing Affordable Housing Plan for 2013-2015 include
- Promote and support successful home ownership;
- Preserve federally subsidized rental housing;
- Address critical needs in rental housing markets;
- Prevent and end homelessness; and
- Prevent foreclosures and support community recovery.
2. Adults and Families Living in Homelessness
After leveling off in the mid-2000s the number of people living in homelessness in Minnesota has risen sharply. The Wilder Foundation’s 2012 study on homelessness clearly reflects the tough economic climate of the past few years, including fewer jobs and less income for those experiencing homelessness. Wilder’s study counted 10,214 homeless adults, youth and children – a 6 percent increase over the 2009 study, considerably less than the 25 percent jump observed from 2006 to 2009. The 2012 study shows that 41 percent of homeless adults are currently on a waiting list for subsidized housing with an average wait time of nearly a year. Using a formula based on counts compiled by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and other independent studies, Wilder estimates the overall number of homeless people in Minnesota to be at least 14,000 on any given night.
3. Racial Justice, Housing and Homelessness
Racial disparities persist: African-American adults make up 41 percent of the homeless population, but just 4 percent of Minnesota’s population and American Indians make up 11 percent of the homeless population, while a scant 1 percent of the overall population in Minnesota. Of the youth living in homelessness nearly 66% are youth of color or Native American even though these youth only make up 18% of the total youth population.
According to the PBS Documentary “Race: Power of an Illusion,” one of the root causes of these long standing disparities is that between 1934 and 1962, of the 120 billion dollars worth of new housing subsidized by the government, less than 2% went to non-white families. The Organizing Apprenticeship Project’s Proactive Racial Equity Agenda provides this additional information on the intersection of race and housing justice.
- Homeowners and communities of color were disproportionately impacted by foreclosures in Minnesota, in large part because of discriminatory lending patterns that steered homeowners of color towards high-cost, sub-prime loans.
- One national study ranked the Twin Cities area as among the worst in the country for differential treatment of borrowers of color in relationship to white borrowers, regardless of income levels. Racial disparities in access to affordable loans impacted borrowers of color at all income levels, from low to upper income.
4. Youth Living in Homelessness
On any given night, an estimated 4,000 Minnesota youth experience homelessness. These numbers are conservative estimates; the number of unaccompanied youth is likely considerably higher.
- 46% of all homeless Minnesotans are children and youth age 21 and younger, including 3,546 children living with their parents;
- 53% of youth were living in situations that fit the definition of long-term homeless as defined by the State of Minnesota;
- 23% slept outside at least one night in October 2012; and
- 38% homeless youth 21 and under are from greater Minnesota.