Community Engagement, 2017

During a year-long research period, Homeboat interviewed community members and developed strategies for increasing outreach and accessibility to housing resources in a rural community in southwest Minnesota. 

Workshops, interviews, and hangouts in St. James

Founded as a railroad town in 1870, it is now the county seat and home to 4,605 people. St James has three large meat processing plants and with this, has brought in a wave of cultural diversity going back three generations. The makeup of St. James willl soon be 50% Latino. We collaborated closely with La Convivencia Hispana, a local Latino lead organization, to help bring housing resources to this largely underserved group of people.

Through an extensive engagement process, we created a toolkit for creative collaborative engagement between the St. James Housing Committee and other organizations/residents in town, specifically those households with limited English language skills. These tools are used to bridge gaps between resources and provide assistance to households in need. We started the process by trying to get to know everyone, calling over 100 people in town before we arrived and having a conversation, always sure to ask: What’s your favorite restaurant in town? Who else should we be talking to? It wasn’t revealed that we were talking to the mayor until 10 minutes into our initial conversation. Now we’re friends.

A cultural place-­based civic engagement strategy, called the Community Advocate Program, was introduced to increase household outreach and education for housing rehab needs and resources, particularly to underserved Latino households. Thirty-four (34) 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 household address larger and more chronic rehab. One of the Community Advocates has become the first Latino representative on the City's Housing Committee as a result of this effort.

Through our effort, the City has established a local Fix-Up Fund Program with $25,000 of Local Funds (repaid SCDP dollars meeting the threshold of "local funds") to address small but necessary repairs identified in the HHAs. Also, the City is coordinating Handyman Workshops and Home Maintenance Workshops, in both English and Spanish, to help address some of the concerns that emerged over lack of household knowledge or availability of contractors/handymen to address home repair and maintenance needs. Anyone completing the Handyman certification workshop will be added to a directory available to homeowners in need of minor repair work. The City has put together a local Resource Guide, identifying various resources for homeowners and renters in St. James.

PO BOX 364          PALOUSE, WASH