VIEW: Compassion for Someone Not Like Ourselves

Lindalee Soderstrom

As an active member of the new Changemakers Alliance, I am enjoying building ongoing stories under the Minnesota Women’s Press umbrella that are focused on positive solutions to our state’s housing crisis. Limited housing investment over the decades is overwhelming us now, with the shortage in housing at all levels. All communities face this scarcity across the entire continuum of housing.

Yet there are solutions. 

Tiny Home Villages

Veterans and chronically homeless folks create a home-like life together. These communities become family for many. In the Twin Cities region, the Envision project is designed by its residents-to-be, with shared laundry, kitchen, and bathroom facilities surrounded by secure spaces that have a lock and key. The Avivo Village model provides a similar level of dignity to its residents. 

Housing Coalitions

Most first-ring suburbs of the metropolitan centers have been meeting in coalitions like the Suburban Hennepin Housing Coalition. This helps to bring about new city ordinances. Minneapolis got national attention with its zoning adjustment that allows small multi-family apartment dwellings in single-family neighborhoods. The move was lauded in Atlantic magazine as a way to correct the racism inherent in past residential zoning laws that enabled white Minneapolis residents, with a median annual income of $65K, to live in “high-opportunity areas of the city, whereas American Black and Native American residents, “with a median annual income of $20,871, are largely excluded from those areas and resources.” 

Can over-garage units, backyard granny pods, and bump-out rentable micro apartments be solutions around the state to a lack of affordable spaces? 

What makes up for the mapping of prejudice that redlining by banks and realtors and communities in our state tolerated?

This cannot be solved with one sweep of the brush. Segregation has been long-rooted in Minnesota, which can be hard for many of us to talk about.

My Idea

What if we had Americorps volunteers, after someone is placed in their own home or apartment, assigned to follow up with individuals to make sure needs are met and crises are averted?

No one can do a recovery process alone. Whether it be a chosen family, or people with similar backgrounds, or a neighbor’s care and concern, or a neighborhood watch, human connection accompanies recovery. 

As a member of several communities of faith, I believe there are many people above the age of 50 who could find a calling in this work — convening, conceiving, designing, funding and even building housing with proper training and support. People together using their own hands and learning not to judge, interfere, or speculate about the lives of others.

If you want to join efforts to support the community housing model in Minnesota, indicate your interest on the Changemakers Alliance form:

If you want to join a national campaign called Bring America Home Now (BAHN), involving multiple pillars — racial justice, civil rights, universal human rights to housing, education, trained medical care, and the decriminalization of poverty and homelessness explore: