Board approves funding to support training and outreach
By Katy Zillmer
Sun POST Newspapers
Hennepin County is continuing to fund fair housing initiatives through a partnership with Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid.
The county board approved the continued partnership and $25,000 in funding for the services last month.
Housing, Community Works and Transit Assistant Director Kevin Dockry said the funding is part of the county’s Housing and Urban Development programs.
Receiving the funding means the county must continue to advance fair housing services. The cities of Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka and Plymouth are included in a Hennepin County Consortium because they receive their own Housing and Urban Development funding, Dockry said.
The funding to those cities and the money approved by the county board to allocate to fair housing services mean resources are spread throughout urban and suburban Hennepin County.
Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid is the only fair housing program that responded to the county’s request for services this year, Dockry said.
The funding will support intake and resolution for 60 housing discrimination complaints in suburban Hennepin County, outreach services to six organizations serving recent immigrants, fair housing training for three of the organizations, as well as fair housing training to one organization serving people with disabilities.
Lael Robertson is a supervising attorney with Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid who is working with Hennepin County to provide fair housing services.
She said the county has supported fair housing enforcement in the past, and that they develop different training and outreach projects based on the needs of the population in Hennepin County from year to year.
“They’re responsible to take proactive steps for fair housing, and they pay us for fair housing enforcement and training and outreach,” Robertson said.
Examples of fair housing services include working with tenants at rental properties in Hennepin County who feel they are being discriminated against, Dockry said.
“It’s important that everyone is treated fairly for their housing opportunities,” Dockry said.
Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid will work with tenants and property owners in those cases.
The organization also advocates for people with disabilities to have reasonable accommodations where they live, Robertson said.
“It allows them the equal opportunity to enjoy their home,” she said.
Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid will provide basic fair housing training to social service providers so they can inform their clients about red flags that may indicate their rights are being violated, Robertson said.
“Clients are more concerned about maintaining housing, employment and child care, and may not see red flags,” she said.
The organization may also provide training for people who work with the immigrant population in Hennepin County.
“The benefits are for our clients,” Robertson said. “I think Hennepin County’s ongoing support is instrumental for us to keep doing what we do. Hennepin County has been an incredible partner in training and outreach. I just think that having a partner like Hennepin County makes our job easier.”
More information about fair housing is available at fairhousingmn.org or Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid’s website, mylegalaid.org.
Contact Katy Zillmer at [email protected]