A ‘Home of Hope’

by Erin Hanafin Berg, Field Representative
March 9, 2009

I try to keep myself relatively informed about preservation goings-on around the state, so I subscribe to several news feeds. The Hibbing Daily Tribune is one of the most active newspapers in the state, judging from all of the e-mails they send me. There are a lot of headlines about swimming and other prep sports, but usually once or twice a week there is some story that pertains to preservation activity on the Range.

Today one entitled “Duo donates ‘Home of Hope’” caught my eye. It turns out that two guys in Chisholm are donating a single-family house as a seven-day emergency homeless shelter. They are financing the effort themselves and hope that this practice will turn into a movement. The photograph that accompanies the article shows a tidy stucco bungalow.

Chisholm's first "Home of Hope." Photo by Jeff Warner, Hibbing Daily Tribune.
Could this be the start of a new movement? The first “Home of Hope,” in Chisholm. Photo by Jeff Warner, Hibbing Daily Tribune.

We at the Alliance have been concerned about the housing crisis and what it means for neighborhoods full of older homes. We’re familiar with the extent of the problem in Minneapolis and Saint Paul–there have been numerous articles about the tide of foreclosures and the resulting vacant houses, and we have good ties with our local partners, Historic Saint Paul, Preserve Minneapolis, and the new Minneapolis Historic Homeowners Association. But we have less information about how this crisis is affecting folks in greater Minnesota and articles such as this one, which allude to the growing homeless population in Chisholm, cause me to worry.

I wonder if something like a network of short-term, single-family homeless shelters would a feasible reuse for some of these distressed properties. Using the Chisholm model, private donors would pool their money to buy some of these houses that are currently at rock-bottom prices and then donate use of them to social service agencies that serve the homeless. Sometimes I get on a “preservation can save the world!” track and don’t think through all the details. (Usually my husband is the one to set me straight.) But these two guys in Chisholm seem to think it is do-able. I wish them every success.

What do you think about this idea and the foreclosure crisis as it impacts historic preservation? Send your thoughts and ideas to me at PAMfieldnotes@gmail.com

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