By Anne Mavity
It was 1999 and I received a phone call from some folks at Plymouth Congregational Church. They were asking for assistance to possibly purchase a boarded up nursing home across the street from their church, and wondered if I might help them to understand the financing as well as and figure out how to use the building to house people experiencing homelessness – people that were already being served through Plymouth’s outreach programs. I was working at the new Minnesota office of a national nonprofit, the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), where I helped the local affordable housing development and policy community learn how to connect services and affordable housing to end homelessness in this new model called “Supportive Housing”.
With few local models to showcase, I took the newly formed board of the Plymouth Church Neighborhood Foundation (PCNF) for a whirlwind tour of supportive models in Chicago that were already demonstrating excellent outcomes in ending cycles of homelessness. After evaluating what they saw and learned, the vision for Lydia Apartments emerged. Soon, I helped PCNF to purchase the building and to outline a plan for creating Lydia apartments, led by talented church volunteers. After a few years, , the PCNF Board decided that it was time to secure staff to navigate the complex funding and land use processes needed to bring Lydia Apartments to fruition, and Lee Blons was hired as the organization’s Executive Director in 2003.
Many of you know of the years-long neighborhood protests that occurred every week as Plymouth congregants arrived for Sunday service – the congregation showed such fortitude and commitment to their vision of ending homelessness. The uniqueness of PCNF – later to become Beacon - of engaging the faith community in this movement, was an added value and clout that other organizations had not fully tapped, and persuaded the funding community to take a chance on this new nonprofit.
Fast forward 15 years later… Beacon is now a sophisticated supportive housing developer having created nearly 600 apartments and is a powerful and effective voice advocating for affordable housing investments at the local level and the State legislature. As the director of New Projects for the past three years, it’s been an honor to be a part of the efforts that brought thousands of supporters to the State legislature, resulting in increased investments in housing bonding and service funding. Particularly meaningful for me, was working with congregational leaders in Edina, where we organized more than 200 people to come to city hall to say, “Yes!” to 66 West, creating homes for 39 youth experiencing homelessness.
For three years I have come to work knowing that both my heart and my head would be fully engaged in this work. I’ve been to be moved to tears on a regular basis by the stories of the people we serve, by the dedication of my co-workers, and by the passion and commitment from congregational leaders throughout the Beacon Collaborative.
For everything there is a season, and in a few weeks, I will be starting a new journey as the Executive Director of the Minnesota Housing Partnership, working with Beacon and other stakeholders to increase investments in affordable housing and expand capacity to create and sustain such housing throughout Minnesota and beyond. I am grateful to all of you for the experiences I’ve had through Beacon and for your work in ending homelessness. I am confident I will be seeing many of you in the years to come as we continue toward the goal of creating homes for all. Thank you for the opportunity I’ve had at Beacon. You will continue to inspire me in the work ahead.