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Mpls Recovery Idea: Use Foreclosed Homes As Shelters

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Part of the tragedy of the tornado that devastated North Minneapolis is that the same area had already been hit hard by the foreclosure crisis. But the combination of those two problems gave one volunteer an idea to solve the two at once.

When Anthony Newby saw the storm damage and heard some of the stories, he was moved to help. Unlike some volunteers, he knew that those problems could have been his.

“I don’t consider myself … an activist or politically active in any way, but the tornado missed my house by about four blocks,” he said.

All the damage amid a number of foreclosed houses got Newby, who has a background in real estate, asking questions.

“Why are we shuttling people to armories and overcrowded homeless shelters when there are a number of properties in the community … and many of them are livable?” he said. “Why don’t we put something together that would allow folks to rebuild their lives in these properties?”

So he created an online petition, but city officials say most of the foreclosured homes are in bad shape. Many of the homes were broken into and had their copper pipes torn out. The immediate need, they say, is better served by shelters.

“The shelters are in demand … and there is capacity,” said Deborah Huskins, area director of Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department.

In fact, the county says shelters are not only gateways to better housing, but to the other services tornado victims need.

“There are people who can help them,” Huskins said. “And if they come to the county and they have questions, we can try to help them with shelter, we can help them with some other services, or we can connect them with other ways to get the help that they need.”

Newby says he already has a meeting set up with Mayor R.T. Rybak. He says banks are fixing up some foreclosure properties and wants them to be turned over for the city to use.

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