Home Line VISTAs Support Tenants During Owner Opt-Out
"In St. Louis Park and St. Paul, Minnesota, tenants from Lou Park and Mears Park Place Apartments are facing the non-renewal of their Project-Based Section 8 contracts with Bigos Management, which would equate to a loss of 82 long-term deeply affordable units. These residents primarily represent folks from immigrant, elderly, disabled, and low-income and single-parent family backgrounds. At Lou Park, half of the tenants are Russian Jewish immigrants.
VISTAs Ivory Taylor and Asha Ahmad from HOME Line worked with the tenants to establish tenant associations; the tenants then reached out to Bigos Management to request a meeting to talk about the non-renewal and the effects it would have on the residents. After receiving a letter back from Bigos Management's attorneys which reiterated their decision to end the contract, but did not respond to the request for a meeting, residents decided to organize an action around the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
Sukkot is observed by building a temporary shelter in your backyard to invite friends and neighbors to join together and celebrate the end ofsummer. Many neighbors at Lou Park find meaning in the symbol of a temporary shelter this year due to the uncertainty surrounding the future of their housing.
Jewish Community Action, HOME Line, and the St. Louis Park Housing Team helped the tenants organize the event and spread the word for turnout. Numerous state and local elected officials attended, included current House Representative and candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota, Peggy Flanagan, who spoke about growing up in Section 8 housing in a building across the street. Rabbi Michael Latz performed a blessing of the Sukkot and tenants from both Lou Park and Mears Park Apartments raised their voices about the need to preserve their homes as Project-Based Section 8. The program was followed by a community potluck where people shared fellowship and tenants continued to press community members and elected officials for support in reaching and negotiating with Bigos Management.
Tenants were very excited about the turnout and said the event made them feel hopeful. They were thrilled to see the support they received from their community. The event has prompted several elected officials to take further action, based on tenants demands. The residents continue to push forward with the support of their community in the fight to save their homes."
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