Hotel to Housing Program: December 22, 2020 Update
Give directly to ZACAH hotel residents here.
As-salam-u-alaiyum (May peace be upon you).
More than 6 months have passed since the murder of George Floyd; since the eviction of the Sheraton hotel; and since the crisis of Minnesota’s broken housing market reached a fever pitch at Powderhorn Park.
As most community members and donors know, ZACAH never intended to become a homeless outreach organization. Our mission as a grassroots, community-funded effort has always been to intervene when residents of Minnesota are at risk of homelessness, facing eviction, or grappling with financial burdens that threaten their right to home.
But our mission as Muslims is very simple: to serve Allah (God) by serving our neighbors. In whatever form that takes. To meet the needs of our communities as they arise, and to do so with dignity, compassion, and strength.
To that end, ZACAH has shifted in a direction we never anticipated, enabled by thousands of donations and hundreds of hours of service by volunteers. This magnitude of community work is a direct challenge to government officials and elected officials that insist existing systems are good enough, humane enough, fast enough. They are not.
An update on how your donations have been spent:
As of December 22nd, ZACAH has spent $301,208.04. Of that, $45,651.69 has been spent on rental assistance for 35 families, child care, and car payments; the remainder has been used on hotel stays for just shy of 1,000 individuals, including families with children. Our average length of stay has changed — instead of providing emergency hotel stays for 2 weeks, we are now supporting residents with 4-8 week rapid re-entry stays, more adequate time to acquire IDs, health insurance, state assistance, and move to housing. Zero percent of your donations go toward overhead costs.
In late October, ZACAH received funding from the state of Minnesota to provide 15 rooms in November and December. Of that group, 17 have already moved into housing, with another 8 set to move in at the beginning of January. ZACAH was also awarded funding to take on 15 additional rooms in January and February.
But ZACAH has never been able to do enough. Our average rental assistance payment — between September 2020 and December 2020— is $1,247.18. In any year, that is not affordable; in a pandemic, it is downright impossible for families struggling with job loss, medical bills and no substantial support from the federal government. This week, ZACAH stepped in to provide 2-week hotel stays for the again-displaced former residents of the Greenway, one park in Minneapolis, and two in St. Paul. Keeping pace with the city’s rate of evictions is unfeasible for any homeless outreach organization in the Twin Cities, let alone one with a team of six managing the hotel stays. We, like you, cannot operate in a fundamentally backwards system.
Minnesota winters are life or death. The state — the only entity capable of housing every person outside — has had months to prepare for the inevitable. Already, ZACAH is receiving applications for back-rent — amounts up to $5,000 — and the lifting of the moratorium will open the floodgates. In the new year, our energy will be split between keeping our unhoused neighbors warm and keeping our housed neighbors housed. We are — and will remain — in conversation with officials and staff at every level of government, and hope to continue sharing our lessons in the hopes they fuel a response that matches the level of the crisis.
It is our prayer that, if nothing else, this year will organize our communities in sustainable, loving ways, to build power and redefine what it means to hold our officials accountable.
May Our Creator guide us on the path of fairness, relieve the pain of our neighbors in Minnesota, and bring justice to our relatives who are living under oppression across the world.