Coming to Minneapolis: high-quality housing for people involved with criminal justice system

Life after incarceration doesn’t start with a clean slate. It’s a web of legal restrictions, rights limitations and social stigmas–an obstacle course that the Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota ReEntry Program helps participants navigate every day.

“Finding a permanent residence is often a condition of parole, and it’s a hard one to meet…”

Christen Munn leads the ReEntry Program, and she says finding housing is among the “number one challenges” for returning citizens. Even though federal guidelines warn that refusing applicants with criminal backgrounds may qualify as discrimination, it’s nearly impossible to find property managers in Minnesota who will rent to those involved with the criminal justice system.

Christen Munn, a workforce development manager in our ReEntry Program

That’s why we were thrilled when we learned about Great River Landing, a first-of-its-kind housing project moving forward in Minneapolis. A vacant lot in the North Loop (chosen for its proximity to employers and public transportation) will be turned into affordable, high-quality apartments reserved for people who have experienced incarceration, homelessness and unemployment.

Rendering of the new Great River Landing housing project, a 72-unit apartment building, courtesy of Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative

“This housing project will be incredibly impactful for individuals returning to the community after incarceration,” says Christen. “Finding a permanent residence is often a condition of parole, and it’s a hard one to meet when so many property management companies refuse to rent to people with criminal backgrounds. But this is about more than meeting conditions for parole or employment. Knowing where you’re leaving from every morning and coming back to every evening is key to stability, independence and happiness.“

One out of four Minnesotans have a criminal record, and many of them face huge barriers when it comes to securing housing. A 72-unit apartment building may just be a drop in the bucket, but we hope it’s one that creates ripples and makes other landlords think twice before deciding on “application denied.” Finding a place to call home is key to independence, and combined with Goodwill’s mission to eliminate barriers to work, it spells out success for returning community members.