News release: Blandin Foundation grant to homeless coalition helps secure major federal funding to reduce homelessness in NE Minnesota
Today the Blandin Foundation helped announce a significant grant from the Housing and Urban Development Office (HUD) to a coalition of local homeless organizations, Northeast Continuum of Care (NE CoC), to develop new housing units and opportunities and better serve the housing needs of the region. Blandin helped the local coalition secure the $352,280 federal HUD funds by providing a one-time $10,000 grant for consulting and grant writing
Securing a major grant can take hundreds of hours of preparation and many rural organizations cannot afford a full-time grant writer to seek out and apply for these opportunities. In addition, rural nonprofits are often forced to compete for funding dollars based on the number of individuals served, so metropolitan organizations have the edge. As a result of these factors, rural nonprofits receive far less public and private funding per capita than their metro counterparts. Of the $1.9 billion in philanthropic dollars spent in Minnesota in 2019, only nine percent went to rural organizations, while about one in four Minnesotans lives in a rural area.
One-time funding for consulting and grant writing expertise helped leverage $350,000 in HUD funds to better serve critical housing needs in the region
Too few rural organizations have the grant writers and staff to successfully secure public and philanthropic funding, resulting in rural areas receiving only 9 percent of MN philanthropic dollars.
A one-time Blandin grant of $10,000 to Grace House and the Northeast Continuum of Care (NE CoC) provided consulting and grant writing support to help the coalition secure $350,000 in much needed funding from HUD to address homelessness in the region.
There are more than 450 people in the region waiting for a referral to a homeless program.
This grant is an example of Blandin’s new focus on building community wealth and capacity through coordinated regional impact and measurable outcomes.
Blandin participated in a press conference to announce the award with HUD, the NE CoC, Grace House and local officials.
Blandin Foundation Grants Program Officer Kyle Erickson appeared at the press conference today with HUD, the NE CoC, Grace House and local officials to help announce the successful effort. Erickson highlighted how urgent and interconnected the region’s workforce and housing challenges are.
‘’It is hard to build a life if you don’t know where you are going to lay your head at night,’’ Erickson said. ‘’Housing is absolutely central to building community wealth in rural Minnesota. If we do not get housing right, it will be next to impossible to make significant improvements in education, workforce and other pressing issues.’’
The NE CoC initiative will be regionally coordinated and is designed to make a measurable impact in the community. It focuses on:
- Identifying the strategies that work and expanding them across the region
- Targeting to those in greatest need
- Leveraging health care resources
- Developing new units and housing opportunities
The urgent need
Due to the pandemic, increasing housing costs and the decreased availability of affordable housing, rural and Native Minnesotans face inadequate housing units and supportive services to transition from homelessness to housing stability.
According to the Wilder Foundation, homelessness in rural Minnesota increased 13 percent 2015-2018, compared to a metro increase of nine percent. Rental vacancies in Blandin’s home region hover below one percent (five to seven is a healthy rate) while the Leech Lake Housing Authority reports a waiting list for housing support of more than 400 households – and estimates the total need to be double that figure. According to the Minnesota Housing Partnership, nearly half the rental households in Northern Minnesota spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, one of the highest rates in the state.
The NE CoC highlighted the critical need for their resources:
- 455 people experiencing homelessness are on the NE CoC waiting list for a referral to a homeless program (transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, rapid rehousing).
- 113 people were counted as homeless (in an emergency shelter or unsheltered) on the night of the annual Point in Time Count in January 2022.
- Grace House of Itasca County, the NE CoC’s largest emergency shelter, served 183 guests without housing in 2021.
Building capacity and community wealth
Blandin CEO and President Tuleah Palmer highlighted the consulting and grant writing award as one example of how funders can help build the capacity and wealth of a community.
‘’It is time to be more strategic, collaborative and data-driven in our approach to rural funding,’’ Palmer said. ‘’If we are focused on making a real impact for the greatest amount of rural and Native people, we need to regionally identify the skills, resources, partnerships and research that gets us there. The current challenges we face in rural are too significant to stick with the status quo.’’
With statewide input, Blandin Foundation has set a new strategic direction that focuses on community wealth building, rural placemaking and small communities. The organization places a strong emphasis on initiatives that demonstrate sustainable, measurable impact and regional coordination.