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Posts Tagged ‘neighbor’

Photo: Anthony Souffle/Star Tribune.
Linda Taylor talks with a friend as he ferried her paintings to an art show in April. Taylor has lived her Powderhorn Park home for about 20 years and was nearly forced out when her landlord decided to sell.

Here’s a story of people coming together to help a neighbor who was about to be evicted. It’s not necessarily about a greedy landlord. It’s more about systems that make it almost impossible for a person without money to get ahead. And about the power of community.

“Linda Taylor,” writes Sydney Page at the Washington Post, “was given two months’ notice from her landlord to vacate the Minneapolis house she has proudly called home for nearly two decades.

‘It felt like the world had been pulled from under me,’ said Taylor, 70. ‘My house means everything to me.’

“She initially owned the house, but she sold it when she fell prey to a real estate deal she didn’t understand, she said, and has rented the home for about 15 years.

“Earlier this year, Taylor received an unexpected notice from her landlord to leave her white stucco home in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood, just a few miles south of downtown, by April 1. Her landlord wanted to sell the house and was asking for $299,000 — a sum Taylor could not afford. …

“She worked at a local nonprofit organization for nearly three years before she was laid off during the coronavirus pandemic.

“She lost her paycheck but continued paying rent — about $1,400 a month — using her savings, money from family and government subsidies including RentHelpMN, a program started during the pandemic to aid Minnesotans at risk of losing housing.

“[Taylor’s landlord] said he would evict her if she didn’t buy the home or leave. …

“ ‘I’m going to do something about it,’ Taylor remembered telling herself. ‘This is my house.’

“She decided to share her struggle with Andrew Fahlstrom, 41, who lives across the street and works professionally as a housing rights organizer. Since he moved to the neighborhood six years ago with his partner, he and Taylor have built a strong rapport. …

“ ‘So many people are losing housing right now,’ he said. ‘If we actually believe housing is a right, then we need to act like it, because the next stop is homelessness.’

“As word of the grass-roots campaign to save Taylor’s home spread around the block, neighbors were eager to help.

“ ‘People listened to what Miss Linda was saying and wanted to do something,’ Fahlstrom said. ‘It was just such a clear and compelling story that everyone rallied for her.’

“According to Taylor, she originally bought the house in 2004, but she started falling behind on payments and felt she was tricked into signing the house back over to the previous owner, who allowed her to stay on as a renter. In 2006, after her landlord was caught in a mortgage fraud scheme — which affected more than 45 homes, including hers — [her new landlord] purchased the house.

“He raised her rent twice during the pandemic, Taylor said, and let repairs and maintenance issues linger. Several times over the years, Taylor — who has five children, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren — went to social services and applied for programs and grants geared toward renters who want to buy their homes.

“ ‘Every time I tried to buy it, I ran into a ton of different walls,’ Taylor said, adding that although she knew ‘my children would always support me,’ they were not in a position to offer significant financial help.

“Her neighbors empathized with her predicament.

“ ‘This is a person who has been paying for housing for 18 years. Her rent has gone to pay the property taxes, other people’s mortgages, the insurance, and supposedly repairs, too,’ Fahlstrom said. ‘There needs to be more systemic intervention so that people can stay in their homes.’

“The Powderhorn Park community decided it would not allow their neighbor to be displaced. The group was well equipped to mobilize on Taylor’s behalf.

“ ‘We have an active local neighborhood group because we’re within two blocks of George Floyd Square,’ Fahlstrom said, adding that the 2020 protests over Floyd’s murder by a police officer brought the community closer. …

“Organizers sent a letter to the landlord, urging him to wait on eviction and start negotiations with Taylor so she could buy the house. It was signed by about 400 neighbors and hand-delivered to [him] in February.

“The plea worked. … He lowered the sale price to $250,000 — still out of reach for his tenant.

“ ‘Then it became a fundraising effort instead of an eviction defense effort,’ Fahlstrom said.

“Neighbor Julia Eagles was at the forefront of the initiative.

“ ‘I don’t want anyone getting displaced or priced out of the community,’ Eagles said. ‘We all believed collectively that we were going to do what it takes to keep Miss Linda here. So many people know and love this woman.’ …

“In just four months, the people of Powderhorn Park raised $275,000 for Taylor — enough to buy her home and cover repairs. Any additional funds will go toward utility payments.

“Taylor said she is stunned by the support. …

“She is determined to pay the kindness forward.

“ ‘I’m here to help the next person and the next person and the next person,’ she said.”

More about the effects of community organizing at the Post, here. You can also read about this at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where there’s no firewall.

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When a do-gooder from the nonprofit Kounkuey Design Initiative told poor farmworkers at a California trailer park she wanted to work with them to build a place to relax and play, they didn’t think much would come of it.

Patricia Leigh Brown writes at the NY Times why the community is happy to have been proved wrong.

“When Chelina Odbert, the 36-year-old co-founder of the nonprofit Kounkuey Design Initiative, based in Los Angeles, showed up two years ago and asked residents to propose ideas for a park that they might design and build collaboratively, most assumed she was yet another do-gooder bearing ‘muchas promesas’ that would come to naught.

“And yet, after more than a year of drawing, debating, hauling rocks and waiting out bureaucratic delays, the residents had a fiesta recently to celebrate the opening of the park, a public space built out of railroad ties and other simple materials. It has a playground, a community garden, an outdoor stage and a shade structure where neighbors can gather and gossip even on 110-plus-degree days.

“The park, which doubles as a zócalo, or traditional town square, exemplifies a new phase for both Kounkuey (KDI for short) and the field of public-interest design, which tries to put design tools into the hands of neighbors who can create local change. …

“Alberto Arredondo, 51, lives across from the garden and has become its keeper. … Before, he said, he would come home after a day in the fields picking grapes and collapse on the sofa. The park, he added, has ‘de-stressed the women.’

“His theory was borne out by Rosa Prado, whose commitment to the park never wavered. ‘It helps with depression,’ she said. ‘You go out your door, and you see a lady in the park and sit next to her.’ She added, ‘Then a few minutes later, you forget what you’re worried about.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Monica Almeida/The New York Times
Residents of all ages turn out for the opening of a new public space, by the Kounkuey Design Initiative, in St. Anthony’s Trailer Park, home to farmworkers east of Palm Springs, Calif. 

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