In the Phillips neighborhood just south of downtown Minneapolis, affordable housing can be hard to come by. Just ask Jeri Nelsen, Executive Director of the Center for Changing Lives, which is run by Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota (LSSMN).
A building adjacent to the center offers 48 units of affordable housing, including 10 for people who are chronically homeless. Before the building and affordable housing units opened in November 2008, more than 1,000 applications were received, indicating the great need for affordable housing in the area.
“In the late 1990s, it became apparent that the building needed to be replaced,” says Nelsen. “It was overcrowded, not in good shape. It was built during a time when environmental consciousness wasn’t so critical.”
Staff began brainstorming about possibilities for a new building soon thereafter. Several drafts of a replacement building emerged, none of which struck a chord with planners. Planners knew they wanted to create a building that would bring together additional partner ministries who would complement those already existing through LSSMN. From there, staff began realizing if they were going to build a building, they ought to build a green building and aim for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.
The end result was the Center for Changing Lives, which houses two other major partners with whom LSSMN worked to create the building: Messiah Lutheran Church—whose sanctuary and offices are in the building, and Kaleidoscope for Kids—serving 70 kids a year after school. The City of Minneapolis/Hennepin County was a fourth major partner. It created the 48 units of affordable housing, including 10 for people who are chronically homeless—all of which are in a building attached to the Center for Changing Lives.
“We may not have all the resources that we believe we need on behalf of people, but we do have a lot of resources,” says Nelsen. “And what we have to do is use them in the best and most efficient manner possible. To do that, you really have to collaborate. You have to work with other organizations that do complementary but different things.”
The center was designed to meet LEED specifications. It is made mostly of recycled material, highly energy efficient, and very accessible to everyone in the neighborhood. The old building that came down was highly recycled, says Nelsen. The new building, which came in at silver level for LEED certification, is designed to:
LSSMN has developed a Green Team, so that staff can look at becoming greener across all their points of service and how they do things. The Green Team formed shortly after the building opened to ensure that efforts to become green continued, says Nelsen.
“Now we save on energy costs. We have rain gardens that divert the runoff away from the sewer systems,” says Nelsen. “It all makes a difference, and people have appreciated coming to this kind of place.”
Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota (LSSMN) is a social ministry organizaton of the ELCA.