A rentable home is going to be built in Alexandria to help address the issue of homelessness and local organizations are investing time and money into the project.
The Alexandria Area Community Foundation recently gave $30,000 to a partnership between West Central Minnesota Communities Action and the Alexandria Housing and Redevelopment Authority to support labor and materials for construction of the new “Launch Pad.” This house is a two-unit home that will be available to homeless families while they search for employment and affordable housing through the Alexandria HRA.
The home will be a two-unit one in order to maximize the land and get more value out of it. It will be on the property at the corner of 6th Avenue East and Park Street, which the Alex HRA had already owned.
This money was made possible through the foundation’s “Difference Maker” grant. This grant seeks to support community initiatives for positive change for the community.
Kathy Grochow, the foundation’s director of community programs, said the committee that decides which organizations get the grant found the project intriguing because WCMCA and the HRA were replicating a successful model out of the Litchfield area. Grochow described their project as collaborative and innovative.
“It really addresses the community need as it relates to housing,” Grochow said. “The investment that our foundation made, while it helps them launch it, is small in comparison to the entire cost.”
Kelli Minnerath, director of development and operations for WCMCA, said the $30,000 grant will help hold down rent costs for the home.
The idea for the housing project came from United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties’ community impact coalition meetings a couple of years ago.
These meetings are meant to identify needs in areas such as housing, child care, hunger, transportation, trafficking and mental health. A sub-group made up of volunteers in each area works to satisfy those needs via education and providing financial stability.
“A response to homelessness and a need for an emergency solution was the number one priority,” said Minnerath, the facilitator for the housing group.
The group decided to build the home. WCMCA’s department of corrections work crew will be handling the construction. The house itself will be paid for and owned by the Alexandria HRA.
WCMCA will pay rent to the HRA. The idea behind this is to make the families staying in the home feel like WCMCA’s guests rather than the organization’s tenants who pay rent, Minnerath said. Also, WCMCA wanted to have a partnership.
“There’s a rental shortage in our community,” said Jeff Hess, executive director of the Alexandria HRA. “Even if we didn’t decide to partner with West Central or their programming demands changed, then we’d have something available to the market for anybody to rent, which we’ve shown a strong demand and a strong need for.”
The Alexandria HRA has had the issue of homelessness on its radar for a while, Hess said. This Launch Pad project made sense for the HRA to get involved in.
The organization knew it was going to have to build something new rather than renovate an existing property. Some of the main goals for the project were to meet the needs of the WCMCA’s programming, make sure the home blends in with the community, that it is functional and not incur any unnecessary costs.
There is no set timeline for construction yet, but the organizations involved hope to start in the next week or two, Minnerath said. “Our crew builds really quickly, so we’re hoping that we could still start to move a family in, in January or February, but that’s all subject to change.”
Minnerath is most excited about being a part of a solution to homelessness, even if it may be small.
“It’s been really hard for the past years not having an answer for the homeless families that come in who need time to get back on their feet.”