Beacon Interfaith: Empowering Churches to Build Affordable Housing, Part 3

2 Mar

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.

Lorenzo, a resident of American House

After battling homelessness and addiction for 25 years, Lorenzo has a place of his own at American House.

A crucial organizing step is the call to action, both inside and outside the congregation. A good example is a recent breakfast held by Beacon and a partner church. Approximately 80 leaders attended, including congregants, local community leaders, and supporters, who heard from a panel of experts on homelessness and a state senator.

Attendees were then asked to endorse the housing project and state why it was important. While not binding, Allison says, the action was a concrete step that helped seal commitment to and support for the project. “It also provides a solid base of individuals who can act when needed.”

Much of the organizing takes place before the actual work of developing housing, yet is essential in laying the ground for success. Using the process to galvanize support and resources, Beacon and its partner congregations have created or preserved affordable, safe homes for hundreds of people.

American-House

American House is home to 69 residents and includes supportive services on site.

Among the many success stories are Nicollet Square, which provides housing for youth; Creekside Commons, a family housing development with a waiting list of several hundred; and American House, a 69-unit complex for single adults.

For Lorenzo, having a home has meant much more than just a place to sleep. After he battled homelessness and addiction for 25 years, the American House resident has found the stability, support, and community needed to turn his life around.

“They hand you the keys to your room; it’s like keys to a Rolls Royce,’’ he said. (Read more about Lorenzo’s journey at MinnPost.com.)

Beacon’s model forms a “powerful public-private partnership” that taps public funders and congregational resources to create affordable developments, notes Kris Berggren, the agency’s communications specialist. The result is a win-win: Creating housing is transformational not only for residents, but also for congregation members.

As Kris puts it, “Beacon is a catalyst – tapping into people who never dreamed they could help accomplish such things.”

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 at the Wipf and Stock website.

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