The Building Capacity with Black Women (BCBW) project team led by Dr. Brittany Lewis at Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) was formed in the summer of 2019 to work collaboratively with 10 empowered participants to provide the time, space, and tools needed to help Black women that have experienced housing instability resume conscious control over their own housing stability through strategic supports and claim a visible and active voice in the public policy arena as co-collaborators on an engaged action research project of their choosing. CURA believes that when those most affected by housing instability are given the tools they need to resume conscious control over their own housing stability, and are treated as co-collaborators rather than objects of study, they can create research-informed tactical solutions grounded in their own experiential knowledge systems.
Cohort applicant demographics
65 women applied to participate in the BCBW Project. BCBW is the second phase of the North Minneapolis Evictions Research Study led by Dr. Brittany Lewis, Senior Research Associate CURA.
Main motivators informing application
- Seeking assistance with short and long-term housing goals.
- Desire to share personal experiences and their voices.
- Desire to share information with others and learn how to advocate for black women experiencing housing instability.
BCBW project cohort
The 10 women selected for the project comprise the inaugural cohort. Since the start of the project some participants have made career changes, influencing their reported income and housing options. 5 of the 6 women with more pressing housing needs at the start of the project have achieved housing stability. These successes, in large part, are the result of the project coordinators – who support the participants in setting and achieving personal and housing-related goals.
Stories from cohort participants
There are many, what we call, – documentable moments – that have occurred since the start of this project. Two that relate to housing involved participants seeking assistance from project staff to help them assert their legal rights against manipulative and malicious landlords. In one case a participant’s housing rights were grossly violated by a landlord collecting approximately $600 for a rented room in a house infested with vermin. With the support of both coordinators, the participant made clear to the landlord that she knew her rights, faced threats and harassment from the landlord and his management team (as did the housing coordinator), and fought to have the house treated while she worked to get on her feet and obtain stable housing.
Another participant also obtained emotional and legal support as she navigated an eviction filing from a landlord who surreptitiously changed rental due dates, means of payment, and shirked maintenance needs at the property. He threatened eviction monthly, even after receiving the outstanding rent. He eventually filed an eviction, without merit. The participant, having taken a day off of work, appeared in court with the project’s housing coordinator, evidence in-hand, ready to plead her case, but her landlord did not show. She learned her legal rights from project staff and made sure to have her eviction filing expunged on the spot, so it did not appear on her record. Though a courtroom success, the emotional weight of potential homelessness haunted the participant and continues to do so as she is still under lease.
Action research project selected with MPHA
From five cohort-inspired research topics, the group decided to undertake an action research project examining the experiences and mobility patterns of Section 8 voucher holders in the city of Minneapolis. This project will be executed in conjunction with the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) Section 8 Voucher Team. The BCBW cohort and MPHA team will be research partners, investigating trends in voucher holders’ access, mobility, and experiences navigating the city’s housing authority. Interviews with voucher holders will be central to this research, rather than simply analyzing statistical data, the qualitative data will help us more deeply understand voucher holders’ experiences and feature their voices in the final report.