Healthy Housing Initiative

Organization and community: Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership (Southwest region, MN)

St. James, Minnesota has a population of just under 4,500. While this railroad community has experienced overall population declines, there has been strong growth in the Latinx community which now comprises over 30 percent of the population. The local housing committee communicated to Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership about the need to preserve, maintain, and improve existing housing stock. In 2018, the organization worked with the artist team of Jack Forinash, Mary Rothlisberger, and Kelly Gregory to develop creative approaches towards outreach and education efforts, especially among Latinx households, which will soon reach half of the small town’s population. The artists collaborated closely with La Convivencia Hispana, a local Latinx-led organization focused on community organizing, to create a healthy home toolkit that is being distributed by a team of neighborhood advocates and is geared towards households with limited English language skills.

With the information from the artists, the City applied for and received Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) funds to support healthy home rehabilitation. Healthy Housing Assessments were completed on single-family homes in St. James, many of which had critical needs; safety supplies, such as smoke/CO detectors, were distributed and outreach was provided in regards to available resources that would help households address larger and more chronic rehab. The connections established through the healthy housing initiative created a ripple effect in the community, inspiring the city government to dedicate $25,000 Fix-Up Fund for small, but critical repairs, coordinate handyman and home maintenance workshops in English and Spanish, partner with the city attorney to translate official documents into Spanish, and invite the first Latina community member onto the Housing Committee.