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4 min read

Habitat's AmeriCorps Fourplex Turned into Housing for LGBTQ+ Youth

Habitat's AmeriCorps Fourplex Turned into Housing for LGBTQ+ Youth

In the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis stands an unassuming blue three-story building that is beloved by hundreds of former Twin Cities Habitat AmeriCorps members. Affectionately called “The Fourplex,” this was where about a dozen AmeriCorps members lived each year while they completed their service with Habitat. After 23 years of faithful service, we recently decided to sell the fourplex and seek other housing solutions. But in a delightful turn of events, the fourplex will continue Habitat’s housing mission in a new way: a local housing nonprofit, The Link, will turn it into rapid re-housing for LGBTQ youth.

Fourplex outside photo

23 Years of Fourplex History

In the late 1990s, Julie Gugin (now the President of the Minnesota Homeownership Center) oversaw the AmeriCorps program at Twin Cities Habitat. When Habitat was approached by Cecil Bedor at the Central Community Housing Trust (now Aeon) to purchase a building for AmeriCorps housing, they jumped at the chance.

“Having housing was an important recruiting perk,” Julie says. “We were able to engage members from all over the country because of the easy access to housing, which was important—AmeriCorps wasn’t well known then, so having the housing differentiator set us apart.”

AmeriCorps members and regular volunteer crew members pitched in for much-needed repairs, and for the next 23 years the fourplex held a special place in the hearts of the AmeriCorps members who lived there.

Three AmeriCorps members painting the porch of the Fourplex.
AmeriCorps members working on a fourplex improvement project in 2002.

For many, this was the first place they lived after college—their first entrance into the “real world.” It was home base for exploring a new city after moving across the country. It was the birthplace of many life-long friendships (and more than a few marriages). It was where people learned more about themselves, discovered new vocations, and built memories that would last a lifetime. A few of those memories might involve get-togethers that spill out onto the giant back porch, corn pancakes at Maria’s Café down the block, near-daily trips to Aldi next door, and developing friendships with neighbors.

And soon, a new group of young adults will be making memories in this same space.

AmeriCorps members gather around a backyard fire pit.

The Fourplex Gets a New Life

To find out how the fourplex will be used by The Link in the future, we chatted with Sara Cassidy, Program Manager for Project Live Out Loud at The Link.

Hi Sara! Can you share a little bit about The Link and Project Live Out Loud?

Sara: The Link works with youth and young families to overcome the effects of poverty and social injustice. We have 24 programs over three divisions: Housing, Youth Advocacy, and Safe Harbor (for sexually exploited youth).

Project Live Out Loud is a culturally-specific housing program for LGBTQ+ homeless youth between the ages of 18-23. The fourplex is being renovated and remodeled into ten studio units, nine of which will house youth, and one which will serve as an on-site office for our staff.

I think I heard that refugees will temporarily live at the fourplex before renovations are complete—can you share more about that?

Sara: Yes! There are two Afghani refugee families living there until December while minor renovations take place. When those families move to permanent housing in January, major renovations start, with an expected move-in date for our youth in April.

How did you come across this fourplex sale—what were you looking for, and why was this a good fit?

Sara: We had been in communication with a developer who shares our mission since pre-COVID times. When this building went up for sale, we knew it could be a perfect fit for our program and our youth.

Previously, we had two shared homes for a total of eight program youth. While there were benefits to shared living, we learned that because so many of our youth come out of homelessness with trauma and mental health issues, living in a shared house contributed to the stress these youth were under. In talking to those youth at length, we all determined that the benefits did not outweigh the issues they were facing. The youth were re-housed and those shared houses were shut down.

However, from all we learned, we came to believe that if youth were able to share community, have support when they wanted it, but privacy when they needed it, and could take responsibility and ownership for their own space, it could be a win-win for all of them. The fact that this building came from another non-profit gives us such a great feeling from the start about going into this. Habitat does amazing work and we are so honored that by choosing to sell the home to this developer you have given us this opportunity.

This has been a dream of Project Live Out Loud's since we had to close our shared houses. We believe that this will be a model for other programs to follow and will be a wonderful thing for the youth we work with. We are so excited to make this happen.

Thank you Sara!

2016 AmeriCorps members on the front steps of the fourplex, posed and smiling

Remembering the Fourplex

News of the fourplex sale was bittersweet for Habitat staff, many of whom have fond memories of the fourplex. But there was a lot of excitement that it would be sold to The Link for Project Live Out Loud.

Greg MacKenzie, who now works at Twin Cities Habitat, lived at the Fourplex for two years during his AmeriCorps service. “I started living at the fourplex not long after I came out as bisexual, and the community we had was incredibly supportive,” Greg says. “It’s one of the first places I brought the man who I eventually married! I’m sad to see the fourplex go, but I smile every time I think about the LGBTQ+ youth who will soon make this their home.”

Greg and AmeriCorps members smiling
Greg (center, in the hat) with fellow AmeriCorps members during his service time.

Twin Cities Habitat hosts an annual Rainbow Build to highlight housing issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community. In 2022, all proceeds from Rainbow Build are being split with our partner organizations, including The Link! Click here to learn more about Rainbow Build, sign up to volunteer, and make a contribution to the cause.

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