#Homes4AllMN housing story: “It’s like when you’ve fallen off a boat and someone throws you a life preserver.”

The blog below is cross-posted from Homes for All MN. Homes for All MN collects and shares housing stories to to show lawmakers the challenges Minnesotans are facing when it comes to having a safe, stable and affordable home. By sharing your story, you play a key part in gaining the support and understanding of elected officials and furthering Homes for All’s mission to advance housing stability for all Minnesotans. Sue’s story is part of that effort. Join Sue in sharing your story, and thanks for supporting Homes for All!

Sue’s apartment at 1st Avenue Flats is a monument to her love of felines. Paintings of lions and tigers hang on the walls, and pillows shaped like Siamese cats perch next to their living, breathing counterparts on the couch: Susie Q Susette, Daisy Susette and Little Joey Cupcake Kiki Jr. (a name bestowed by her granddaughter Abby).

Opened in 2017, 1st Avenue Flats has been home to Sue and her three furry companions for nine months. Four percent tax credits and Challenge Funds from Minnesota Housing made the complex possible and affordable to a wide variety of Rochester residents — from Mayo Clinic employees and part-time students to people like Sue, who lives on a fixed income. A Section 8 voucher helps make rent and other daily necessities affordable for Sue, who says places like 1st Avenue are key to supporting community members with disabilities or limited incomes.

Photo: Sue poses with one of her three cats at her home at 1st Avenue Flats.

“There’s a lot of people on social security and disability, and we need help,” Sue says. “I’m broken from the tip of the toe to the top of my head. At 16, I was run over by a truck twice. I was lucky because I was young, but it crushed my pelvis to pieces. I lost eight years of college education when a woman hit me, zooming backwards onto the highway in a blizzard, which traumatized my short-term memory.”

She knows the trauma of having no place to turn. Nearly 30 years ago, Section 8 helped Sue and her two children keep a roof over their heads after Sue left an abusive relationship. Sue felt alone and afraid. “I had that horrible feeling of not knowing how to be on my own,” she recalls.

First Avenue Flats in Rochester was made possible by four percent tax credits and Challenge Funds from Minnesota Housing.

Sue didn’t want to rely on her parents, who were retired from IBM and living in another state, for help. She saw a social worker in Dodge County who helped her secure a voucher. “When I got my Section 8 voucher, you wouldn’t believe the relief,” she says. “It’s like when you’ve fallen off of a boat into the water and someone throws you a life preserver.”

The complex provides access to amenities key to Sue’s health including an elevator, covered parking, close access to Mayo Clinic and the YMCA, and a responsive property manager and maintenance professional. Sue feels lucky to have found a spot at 1st Avenue and feels strongly that communities like Rochester need more housing for disabled people.

“At times, people are cruel if they find out you’ve got help to pay your rent, but where would we be if we didn’t have that?”