Beacon Interfaith: Empowering Churches to Build Affordable Housing, Part 1

28 Feb

The challenges of ending homelessness and creating affordable housing are complex and many. These tasks are not for the faint of heart. They call for a community of committed and passionate people, hard work, perseverance, and faith in the mission.

That’s where Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative comes in.  

Located in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, the organization was begun by members of Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis who daily met homeless neighbors. Congregants decided to address the problem’s root causes by developing the Lydia Apartments, which just marked its tenth anniversary of changing lives.

Growing out of Plymouth, Beacon brought its expertise of working with congregations to the broader community. The organization now partners with faith groups of many denominations, empowering them to direct their own passion and resources toward ending homelessness.

“It takes time and care to build support within congregations, which have their own programs, groups and concerns,” notes Kris Berggren, Beacon’s communications specialist. “But people of faith bring so many assets to the table, including their values and motivation to act for the good of others.”

And its model works: Since 1999, Beacon has partnered with over 50 faith congregations to complete 16 affordable housing projects, both new and renovated structures, and to provide emergency shelter.

Jordan, resident of Nicollet Square

Jordan is one of 42 young residents of Nicollet Square, a partnership among Beacon, Plymouth Church, and Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Close to 800 residents have found homes, and
 four more projects are in the pipeline. In addition, each day 30 parents and children find support at Families Moving Forward, an emergency and transitional shelter operated by Beacon.

The agency’s model works because it creates the strong support structure needed to see development projects through. “It’s about building relationships in order to expand the network of people who care about affordable housing,” says Allison Johnson, a Beacon congregational partnership organizer. “We want to ensure that it’s transformational for the congregation and community.”

Before coming to Beacon, Allison worked with congregations with Sojourners on the issue of immigration reform. “There are many parallels between affordable housing and the immigration issue,” she notes.

“Just as angry U.S. citizens may rail against immigrants in their community for taking jobs and taxpayer resources, neighbors turn out at meetings to blast affordable housing developments, claiming they will drive down property values and increase criminal activity.

“The tools to combat these attitudes in our society are remarkably similar – moral courage, a willingness to listen, and facts to educate the general public and reduce stigmas,” Allison says.

In Part Two, learn how organizing works and why it’s crucial to Beacon’s mission.

Photos courtesy of Beacon.

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Beacon Interfaith is featured on pages 179–181 of Making Housing Happen – read an excerpt here. You can find more info and purchase the book on the Wipf and Stock website.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Beacon Interfaith: Empowering Churches to Build Affordable Housing, Part 3 | MAKING HOUSING HAPPEN - March 2, 2014

    […] Part One of this series introduced Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative’s mission to end homelessness through affordable housing. In Part Two, congregational organizer Allison Johnson described how Beacon and its partners gain the needed support. Part Three shows how the commitment gained through organizing has produced homes for hundreds. […]

  2. Beacon Interfaith: Empowering Churches to Build Affordable Housing, Part 2 | MAKING HOUSING HAPPEN - March 2, 2014

    […] Part One of this series introduced Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative. Beacon organizes and partners with faith congregations who have a vision to end homelessness and create affordable housing. Part Two walks through the congregational organizing process. […]

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