Two nonprofit groups with a history of advocating on behalf of immigrant communities are now tackling housing issues side-by-side in the northwest metro — and getting the attention of city leaders.

This budding alliance emerged front and center at a Brooklyn Park City Council meeting Oct. 24, when representatives from African Career, Education and Resource Inc. and Asamblea de Derechos Civiles (Assembly for Civil Rights) presented a petition on behalf of residents at a local apartment complex.

The petition ticked off a typical litany of complaints, from mice to roaches, but it also included an unexpectedly lurid account of an odor so pungent that one tenant felt compelled to phone police. The source of the smell? A dead body.

Residents of Autumn Ridge Apartments, a 366-unit complex of largely affordable housing, say the petition already has sparked some welcome changes since it was submitted to the city. The property also is scheduled to begin a multimillion dollar renovation later this year.

“The city is really working with us,” said Sebastian Rivera, of Asamblea de Derechos Civiles, a statewide, faith-based advocacy group that’s been around for about a decade. “It’s one of the faster responses we’ve seen.”

The two nonprofit groups offer Autumn Ridge as an example of the kind of work they’re now undertaking in tandem, especially in Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center.

“The African immigrant and Latino communities are coming together in issues of housing to demand respect and fair treatment,” said Ned Moore, development director of Asamblea de Derechos Civiles. “There will be a lot more of that in the months to come.”

Leaders from the two nonprofits first met several years ago through their mutual involvement in Equity in Place, a regional coalition of groups that concentrates on issues affecting communities of color.

It didn’t take long to identify overlaps among the two immigrant populations, especially when it comes to housing disparities in the northwest metro.

“These are things that we’re all facing,” said Denise Butler, a project manager with African Career, Education and Resource Inc. (ACER), a metro-area nonprofit founded in 2008. “It’s a common fight.”

Earlier this year, the groups began door knocking together for various initiatives — from encouraging residents to vote to soliciting feedback about housing and potential developments, including the proposed Blue Line light-rail extension, also known as the Bottineau LRT.

In October, about 50 residents from the Latino and African communities also came together for a meeting at St. Alphonsus Church in Brooklyn Center to discuss housing.

The gathering proved revelatory for several participants, who realized for the first time that their struggles were shared, Butler said.

Next up for ACER and Asamblea is compiling feedback from the joint meetings and door-knocking campaigns into a project that they’re calling a “Civil Rights Blueprint for Housing in the Brooklyns.”

The blueprint will outline residents’ affordable housing concerns as well as provide policy suggestions.

The hope, Butler said, is to share their findings with city officials, legislators and community leaders at a public forum sometime in December.


Hannah Covington 612-673-4751 Twitter: @Hannah_Cov