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Solutions: My Neighbor To Love Coalition Builds Community-First Approach to Ending Homelessness in Brainerd

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My Neighbor to Love Coalition presents "community-first" solutions to homelessness

Homelessness continues to be a problem around the country, state, and here in northern Minnesota. Vicky Kinney, along with the non-profit organization My Neighbor To Love Coalition, is dedicated to lifting up people experiencing homelessness with a three-pronged, community-first approach. Vicky joined Heidi and Kari on the KAXE/KBXE Morning Show to talk about the progress being made in Brainerd. Click the "Listen" player above for the whole conversation.

Sometimes the problems of our worlds and our communities seem to big to tackle. But listening to someone else with a plan and enthusiasm and passion, can you help you understand we all can make a difference.

Today we met Vicky Kinney. She told us about My Neighbor to Love Coalition - a Brainerd nonprofit that is working towards building a homeless community with tiny houses.

"A lot of people are unaware that we do have a problem with homelessness in central Minnesota," Kinney said. "And that doesn't count the people who didn't show up to be counted. The number is much larger and it is only increasing."

The tools that Kinney and My Neighbor To Love Coalition (MNTLC) are using to address this problem is a community-first approach that consists of a three-front plan: Home, Health, and Harmony.

"We call it intentional living," Kinney said. "It's a three-legged stool. Yes, we want to build homes people can afford. People can't deal with those issues taht led to homelessness until they have that secure place; those primary needs must be met first."

"The next leg is health. We are matching people to services: mental health, physical health, relationship skills, financial health, workforce training."

"And the last leg is harmony. Peaceful coexistence. The idea of building a community where people belong and where they're a stakeholder in their own community is a vital piece."

Currently, the intentional community is in the early stages, but there has been forward movement. "The land is purchased in northwest Brainerd," Kinney said. "We'll be going to the city very soon to apply for conditional use permits so we can fit more homes on the property. The city will be happy with the plan. It's a good use of land and it's providing a desperate need for housing."

MNTLC is currently seeking funding from a variety of different sources. After a donor purchased the land for the site, the organization is doing fundraising, grant writing, and looking at loans. "The first part of the project is $2.3 million to get the first 12 units built. We also have a matching funds grant for $17 thousand. So if anyone wants to join in the project, they're welcome!"

Kinney is so invested in this project because she has seen the impact that homelessness can have on a person. "We know people and we have family members who have experienced homelessness, and we've seen the effects and know the misconceptions; we've held them ourselves at some point. And that's part of the problem."

"Myself, I recently lost a son to homelessness and drug use and mental health issues. I've seen a different side of it listening to the stories and the trauma people are facing. If everyone joins in and actually cares and sees that people are people and we're not that different.... It's a solvable problem."

Do you want to help? Do you want to know more? Check out the My Neighbor to Love Coalition website here.

Heidi Holtan is KAXE's Director of Content and Public Affairs where she manages producers and is the local host of Morning Edition from NPR. Heidi is a regional correspondent for WDSE/WRPT's Duluth Public Television’s Almanac North.
The music director at KAXE since 2014, Kari (pronounced Car-ee) Hedlund reviews music on the daily. She also hosts New Music every Wednesday (2 and 10 p.m.) and Sunday (noon), along with the KAXE Morning Show on Thursdays.