Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS) strengthens the fabric of Saint Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood by keeping current residents in their homes.
SMRLS offers free legal assistance to low-income individuals in 33 counties of southern Minnesota, including the east and south metro area. Since 2014, the Frogtown Housing Stability Project, funded in part by F. R. Bigelow Foundation, has connected Frogtown’s tenants with legal information regarding their housing rights.
“We really collaborated with the community on this project,” said Colleen Walbran, supervising attorney. “The Frogtown Rondo Home Fund was putting together a list of resources for homeowners, and they realized how few were specifically for renters. Frogtown has a high percentage of renters, so we partnered with the Home Fund and the Community Stabilization Project to do outreach and educate residents about their options.”
Through the Frogtown Housing Stability Project, SMRLS has negotiated with the city to preserve affordable housing, represented residents in eviction defense cases, run trainings for parents at local schools and hosted an eviction expungement clinic at the Rondo Library. To date, SMRLS has helped 290 households in the neighborhood preserve their housing or prevent eviction.
“Housing stability promotes neighborhood stability,” said Walbran. “Homelessness creates a tear in the fabric of the community and is a huge expense for the government, local organizations and tax payers. When people have housing stability, they have something they can build on.”
Promoting housing equity in Frogtown also supports the neighborhood’s rich history of racial diversity. Many current residents are rent burdened, making them one financial crisis between stable housing and potential eviction. Recent rent increases in the Twin Cities paired with new developments increasing demand in the Frogtown neighborhood put some residents at risk of losing their housing.
Thanks to community partnerships and collaborations, SMRLS was able to respond to the unique needs of the community, meeting residents where they were at and ensuring Frogtown’s community remains stable for years to come.
“When you empower someone to retain their home, you are empowering them to make gains in all aspects of their lives, from education to employment to asset building for the future. We hope to take what we’ve learned about neighborhood-focused efforts and continue empowering communities across our service area,” said Walbran.