Neighborhood groups say “YIMBY” to Rita’s House for youth

Neighborhood associations have pooled more than $100,000 to help fund the renovation of a house at 2200 Emerson Ave. S.

The neighborhood associations currently represent the largest source of funding for the $220,000 project. The Bridge for Youth plans to house 12 renters between ages 18 and 20 at high risk of becoming homeless. The housing would provide an option for youth that age out of other programs at The Bridge.

Scott Engel, executive coordinator of the CARAG neighborhood, said the board had considered earmarking funds for low-interest loans before hitting on the Rita’s House project.

“We felt like this is so important,” he said. “Sometimes I think neighborhood organizations have been portrayed as NIMBY [Not In My Backyard]. This is an example of a YIMBY concept.”

The East Isles Residents Association was the first to contribute and worked with CARAG to reach out to other neighborhood groups. East Isles is contributing at least $20,000, the Armatage Neighborhood Association is giving $25,000, the West Calhoun Neighborhood Council is giving $10,000, CARAG is giving $20,000, the Cedar-Isles-Dean Neighborhood Association is giving $10,000, the East Calhoun Community Organization is giving $20,000, and the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council is giving $10,000.

The Bridge for Youth Executive Director Michelle Basham said she visited East Isles in early 2017 to gauge potential opposition to the project. She said neighborhoods are often hesitant to support programs for the homeless in their communities.

“But they were not only very supportive [of the] concept, they were the first to want to contribute,” she said.

Basham said the number of homeless youth in Minnesota has grown 46 percent since 2012.

“This is a challenge that continues to get bigger,” she said.

Residents of Rita’s House would pay low rents, stay in single bedrooms, share common spaces and access case management and job placement services.

The building is scheduled to open by early 2018.