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Writing new headlines

Posted: June 29, 2017

Writing new headlines
Every day we are bombarded with headlines describing disasters, wars, crime and negative politics. In the midst of this toxic news, what if we read a headline that said, “People of faith heard about homeless youth in their community and decided to build them a home.” The good news is that this headline is true for Edina. This is exactly what has happened at 66 West.

This project was the vision of Edina Community Lutheran Church (ECLC) and Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative. St. Patrick’s joined the Task Force along with several other congregations after members of ECLC, “knocked on our door.” In the Gospel of Matthew it says, “Knock and the door shall be opened”…

St. Patrick’s Social Justice Commission did our own research and discernment over a six month period of time before we joined the effort. We reviewed it with Catholic Charities Office of Social Justice who suggested that it was needed, “yesterday!” Catholic Charities is the largest builder of affordable housing in the State of Minnesota. We also visited Nicollet Square, the model property in Minneapolis, and spent several months discussing it. Our Social Justice Commission unanimously supported the project. Fr. Tim supported it too.

The work of the Catholic Church on affordable housing is not only grounded in the teachings of Jesus, specifically in the Sermon on the Mount; we are also called to this work through Catholic Social Teaching and the, “Preferential Option for the Poor.” In the Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis calls Catholics to, “go out and be the field hospital.” We are asked not to, “wait” for people to come to our doors, but to go out and serve those in need.

66 West is a beautiful example of churches, individuals and businesses working together to solve part of the problem of youth homelessness. I was asked after Mass this weekend why we got involved with the project. My response was that 2,500 youth are homeless on any given night in the Twin Cities according to Wilder Foundation research. Previously there were no housing options for homeless youth in the Southwest quadrant which includes Edina, Richfield and Bloomington.

66 West appealed to our values. Young people are required to earn a portion of their rent. One of our Social Justice Commissioners described it as a, “hand up, out of poverty”… In other words, “skin in the game.” 66 West will change the trajectory of a young person’s life by providing a safe place to live. Caring adults will give residents the support they need to enroll in school, find jobs and build bright futures.

Ten of us had an opportunity to tour the property! It’s hard to believe we broke ground last July! 66 West is stylish and beautifully designed. Thanks to a generous gift from the Robert Hobbins Memorial Fund, we were able to buy all of the necessary items for four of the apartments including: new towel sets, quilts, pillows, pots and pans sets, dishes, glassware, and items for the bathrooms. Individuals and congregations have been gathering new supplies for each of the apartments. Most tenants will come with only a back pack.

66 West will be a good neighbor. It has on-site property management and security. 66 West also has wrap-around support services provided by Simpson Housing Services. There are also rules to protect tenants and surrounding neighbors. Tenants are not allowed to have alcohol or tobacco on property. Overnight guests are limited. There is no co-habitation and parents with children cannot live at the property. There is also a computer room, laundry, community kitchen and gathering space. The bus stop in front of 66 West connects with 140 lines. There are lots of employment opportunities within walking distance (it’s across the street from Southdale).

Residents will have an opportunity to have a voice in how the property is managed and provide feedback on what services will make the biggest impact. This will also give them an opportunity to use their voices and to develop leadership skills. To date, 32 young people have moved in. The mood is upbeat. After the Fourth of July, the last seven apartments will be filled. It’s a dream come true for the new residents.

When I think of all of the individuals from St. Patrick’s and our community who played a key role in making this a reality, I am deeply grateful. “66 West is helping young people write new stories.”…If you would like to see the property, plan to attend the community celebration on August 3. There will be brief remarks starting at 5:30 pm. There will be tours afterwards! Everyone is invited!

Maura Schnorbach