'Creative' homeless solution runs up against Minneapolis city code

  • Article by: ALEJANDRA MATOS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 1, 2014 - 7:55 AM

Minneapolis woman provides a place to live for some with nowhere to go, but runs afoul of city housing code.


Don DeAngelo rents a room in one of the houses leased by Kolleen Boyd, right. “If it weren’t for Kolleen, we’d be homeless, DeAngelo said.

Photo: GLEN STUBBE • gstubbe@startribune.com,

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Minneapolis city officials are cracking down on what Kolleen Boyd calls her creative solution to ease homelessness.

Boyd leases three single-family homes in north Minneapolis and then rents out each bedroom to residents who cannot find other stable housing, including felons, drug addicts and residents with mental-health issues.

“I’m not getting rich off of this,” said Boyd, who came out of treatment for drug and alcohol abuse and got sober in 2007 after living in a halfway house. “Some months, I barely break even.”

But Boyd’s desire to provide housing for those facing troubled and uncertain times is colliding with city laws.

Attorneys and city officials say Boyd is essentially running illegal rooming houses, where people rent a room, and share common areas such as bathrooms and kitchens.

City code dictates that Boyd’s houses can only have three unrelated people living in each. In one of her homes, she has seven people paying rent.

JoAnn Velde, the city’s deputy director of housing inspection services, said the city might need to “put more restrictions into rental licensing that would not allow for this kind of practice.”

City inspectors visited two of Boyd’s properties in the past week to warn her that too many people are living there — which could lead to residents being homeless again soon.

Inspectors last week placed two bright orange stickers on the front door of one of the properties, located on the 400 block of 23rd Avenue N. “UNLAWFUL OCCUPANCY,” the notice says, adding that the property must be vacated by Aug. 31 if the problems are not corrected. The four-bedroom property has seven unrelated individuals living there, including two couples.

The property is managed by Gloria Marina Mejia, according to city records. She could not be reached for comment.

‘No room for change’

Boyd does not dispute that there are too many people living in some of the homes. She called on the city to re-evaluate its policies so that she and others can help those facing homelessness.

“That’s where my frustration comes in,” she said. “There is no room for change.”

Since last October, Boyd signed 12-month leases with five property owners in north Minneapolis and told them what she planned to do. She has already lost two because of occupancy issues and is fighting hard to hold on to the rest.

At first, she found tenants by visiting local shelters, mainly the Salvation Army. Now, she said, she gets phone calls several times a day from people seeking housing.

For $500 to $550 a month, tenants get a bedroom with their own lock, and they share a kitchen, bathroom and living room. Their rent includes all utilities. Tenants must sign a month-to-month contract and abide by a policy that prohibits drugs and alcohol.

She currently has 16 tenants spread across the three properties, and she lives in one of the homes herself. Children are not allowed to live on the properties, and she does not rent to individuals with criminal sexual convictions.

Don DeAngelo moved in last December. He was released from federal prison in 2012 after serving more than 20 years for several convictions, including homicide.

He now lives in one of Boyd’s properties with his fiancée, who is in treatment for alcohol dependency and used to live under a bridge. He said his parole officer heard about Boyd’s houses and suggested he give her a call.

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  • These signs went up in the past week on one of the properties where Kolleen Boyd leases and in turn rents rooms to those who have difficulty finding housing. The home must be vacated by Aug. 31 if problems aren’t corrected.

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