ST. PAUL — Eugene Ivy was 12 when he first became homeless. After living for a time with a grandmother, he and his mother bounced from shelter to shelter for years.
The lanky 20-year-old believes he finally found stability this week when he moved into the new Ain Dah Yung Center on St. Paul’s University Avenue, a 42-unit supportive housing community that offers mental health counseling and other services for young people who may need the extra TLC.
“I feel blessed,” said Ivy, flanked by news media and state and federal officials. “Coming from where I’m coming from, I know nobody has to give you anything. They didn’t have to give me anything.”
On Thursday, Nov. 21, officials with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development joined Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and community housing leaders at the Ain Dah Yung Center to announce nearly $5.4 million in competitive grants for housing voucher programs across Minnesota.
The rent subsidies, targeted to non-elderly individuals and families struggling with trauma and disability, are expected to help more than 590 recipients lease housing in the private market, including 96 families across St. Paul and Ramsey County.
“I am standing here today as your lieutenant governor because of a Section 8 housing voucher that my family received as I was growing up in St. Louis Park,” Flanagan said. “Our administration knows that everything starts with a home.”
Much like traditional Section 8 housing vouchers, the Mainstream Housing Choice disability vouchers are administered by public housing officials across the state.
The largest grants will go to programs run by the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Metropolitan Council housing authorities. The three agencies received a smaller competitive grant award for disability housing a year ago.
Typically, a low-income client pays 30 percent of their income toward rent and the federal housing voucher makes up the difference.
“It is a big boost because these opportunities don’t come every year,” said Kyle Hanson, managing director of Housing Choice Vouchers for the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority.
Finding clients through partnerships
Hanson said the $1.6 million award will allow them to house 140 clients hand in hand with Hennepin County and the Minneapolis-based Salvation Army Harbor Light Center. A year ago, the Minneapolis PHA received enough funding to house 99 families.
Dominic Mitchell, program director with the St. Paul Public Housing Agency, said they will use the $687,000 from HUD to house 96 individuals and families referred by 10 nonprofit agencies, including Ain Dah Yung, The Arc Minnesota, Breaking Free, JustUs Health, Ethel Gordon Community Care Center, the Emma Norton Center, Guild Inc., Phoenix Service Inc., Minnesota One Stop and Experience Neshama.
The nonprofits will help the clients locate housing and then provide supportive case management services for a year, with the intent of helping them achieve stability. The agency received enough HUD funding last year to help 35 disabled clients through the same voucher program.
“These agencies will refer clients to the PHA who are most in need, including those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and then assist them in finding and locating a stable place to live with their newly awarded voucher,” Mitchell said.
Eleven vouchers are already housing young people in permanent supportive housing at the Ain Dah Yung Center, which was developed with the help of Project for Pride in Living.
The Metropolitan Council’s Metro HRA, which provides housing vouchers in the suburbs, received $675,000 toward housing about 67 individuals and families.
The Washington County HRA will receive $226,000 to house 30 clients. Dakota County Community Development Agency will receive $154,000 to house 20 clients.
In total, HUD is awarding $131.3 million to 325 local public housing authorities across the country to provide affordable housing to approximately 15,363 non-elderly individuals and families with disabilities.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson made the announcement Wednesday in Detroit.