Lutherans in the Twin Cities

A place to stay along the way

Zion Lutheran’s ZOOM House provides short-term housing for the homeless.

Right next to the church building, a 22-unit apartment complex had become the focus of crime and drug raids. Members of this small ELCA congregation made a gutsy decision.

Zion Lutheran Church “made a tremendous decision to go forward and buy the building,” says Mickey Dunham, a member of St. John Lutheran Church and a volunteer at ZOOM House, 3244 Blaisdell Avenue South. Now eight other congregations share with Zion (which has 210 members) in support of the renovated building which provides affordable housing. (ZOOM stands for Zion Originated Outreach Ministry.)

The faith-based ministry’s building has 10 units for families experiencing homelessness, six for families leaving welfare and six units for market-rate rental. The ZOOM House Transi-tional Housing Program assists single parents move toward self-sufficiency. So-cial workers assess needs in education, financial training and parenting education. Residents are expected to move to permanent housing within two years.

Volunteers from supporting churches pledge to clean apartments when there’s a vacancy and provide support for residents. Dunham said that one mother and her children arrived with all their earthly belongings in two suitcases. So the volunteer churches provide “welcome baskets” of needed items, clothing and furniture. Each church also sponsors a monthly event for residents. Two all-church events are a summer picnic (see a photo on page 13) and a Christmas party, to which residents are invited.

A major event is the third annual Fund-raiser and Silent Auction scheduled for October 13 at Calvary Lu-theran Church in Golden Valley. (For details, refer to the box on page 13.) Based on fund-raiser events held in the past two years, 150-200 people are expected at this year’s event at Calvary Church.

Lutheran churches that work with Zion at ZOOM House include Bethany, Franklin Avenue East, Minneapolis; Bethlehem, 42nd and Lyndale Avenue South, Minneapolis; Calvary, Golden Valley; Lord of Life, Maple Grove; Minnetonka Lutheran; St. John, Nicollet Avenue, south Minneapolis; Salem English, West 28th Street, south Minneapolis; and Westwood, St. Louis Park.

A brochure on the facility states, “ZOOM House has made a positive impact on the Lyndale neighborhood. Nearby rental properties have made noticeable improvements in the maintenance of their properties and private developers have begun to invest in the neighborhood as well. Illegal activity has decreased …”

ZOOM House uses the term “transformational housing” for its program, emphasizing that participants, volunteers, community organizations and churches are equal partners working together for positive change. Approximately 65 families have participated in the program, which dates back to 1997.

The ministry receives some funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Devel-opment’s Supportive Hous-ing Program but relies on donations and its annual fund-raiser/silent auction to make up the difference between income and costs of the overall program.

Those wishing to make use of the housing program must meet the following criteria:

* Must be a resident of a shelter or transitional housing or within five days of eviction and lacking re-sources for housing.

* Must have dependent children under age 12.

* Must be at least 18 years old.

* Must be currently working, at least part-time.

* Must be drug and alcohol free.

There are a number of volunteer opportunities available for those wishing to help with the ministry of ZOOM House. They include deep cleaning of apartments for new families, preparing welcome baskets for new families and serving as family mentors.

ZOOM House’s statement of purpose reads: “Witnessing God’s love by serving neighbors in transition and providing safe, affordable housing in a community that offers educational advancement, neighborhood involvement, spiritual growth, economic stability and support in moving toward self-sufficiency.”

ZOOM House is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

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ZOOM House Fund-raiser / Silent Auction

* October 13, 6-9 p.m., Calvary Lutheran Church, 7520 Golden Valley Road, Golden Valley, Minnesota.

* Hors d’oeuvres, a performance by the Metropolitan Boys Choir, address by homeless advocate Richard Amos.
n Reservations: $25 in advance (call 612/825-2825 or send an e-mail to: info@thezoomhouse.org.

* More information: visit www.thezoomhouse.org.