Update: Dundry fire

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Dear Friends of Hope,

It is with heavy hearts that we share with you that, on Thursday, April 4, there was a severe fire at one of Hope’s properties: the Dundry House, a 25-unit building located at 1829 5th Avenue South, which Hope has owned since 2002 and has been vacant since June 2023. We’re grateful for the response from the Minneapolis Fire Department, and for the fact that no one was hurt; however, the fire resulted in irreparable damage. We’re now taking the necessary steps of planning for demolition of the building. We are also deeply grieving the loss of this building, and all that it represents. This is a loss of desperately needed deeply affordable, supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness, and a building that has provided transformational homes for people in our community for decades. We are sad that this is how the Dundry’s story ends. We are holding space for these emotions for ourselves and our community.

In the short term, we are urgently pursuing a path to secure the site by removing the structure and any remaining safety threat it poses. Unfortunately, this is the continuation of a costly process that we began last year in June when we made the difficult decision to close the building and rehouse all residents. We had a supportive housing model in place at the Dundry for nearly 20 years; however, there have simply not been enough public resources invested in supportive housing to make that model viable for Hope to continue providing safe, dignified housing for our residents. Continuing to operate the Dundry without sufficient resources would have put all of Hope’s other work at risk. We continue to reach out to the city, our partners in the affordable housing sector, and our funders to get to a point where the site no longer poses a risk to health and safety.

Longer-term, we are committed to sharing the lessons of the Dundry as a case study of the convergence of systemic failures in a single site. This is a reverberation of the alarm we have been sounding for the last two years about the significant gaps in funding and services for affordable housing. We have joined fellow nonprofits, funders, and many others to advocate for those needed investments, testified before the State legislature, and continued to bring our experience to bear in shaping our housing system. Responding to the needs of our community with boarded buildings has never been and will never be the answer. With a strong civic will and collective response, we can do better.

One of Hope’s greatest strengths is creating a shared community vision for the future. Once the structure is removed, we see the opportunity for a collaborative process that honors the history of the Dundry and determines how the site can continue to serve the community in the future.

We hope you will join us as we reflect, name our aspirations for the future, and build a newvision for the Dundry site. Do you have memories of the Dundry or the people who called it home over the years? What are your hopes for the future of the site? Send us a message and keep watch for future invitations for ways to engage. We welcome your recollections and dreams.

To paraphrase a favorite saying of our dear founder Char Madigan, rebuilding at this site will take some collective “dreaming and scheming,” and we invite your support to help us both to dream and to help us realize that dream through action. Your continued financial support is especially appreciated and impactful at this difficult time. It means more than ever.

In community,

Chaka Mkali & Will Delaney
Co-Executive Directors (Interim)

PDF: Dundry fire update

Interim Leadership Letter, August 2023

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Dear Friends of Hope,

As we begin our new leadership roles of Co-Executive Directors this month, we wanted to take this opportunity to connect with you and share our perspective on the work ahead.

Many of you know us already, but for those who may not: Chaka has dedicated the last 19 years to Hope as an organizer, artist, and community builder, with a proven track record in nurturing the organization’s community organizing and engagement work. He will continue to oversee and guide the Community Engagement team. With 15 years of experience at Hope, Will has been instrumental in driving housing initiatives and fundraising efforts; he will continue to focus on these areas. Our shared commitment to the organization’s mission and values motivates us to lead as we are called and contribute to the success of Hope.

We see our role as sustaining and building upon the strong foundation set by Shannon and her predecessors. We are so grateful to Shannon Smith Jones for her leadership over the last six years, through some incredibly tumultuous times. Shannon led collaboratively, with passion, humor, and grace, and she leaves us having fortified the organization and set us on an exciting course for the future. As our founder and beloved cheerleader Char Madigan quipped about the transition at Shannon’s farewell lunch – it is not lost on us that it takes two men to fill the shoes of one woman!

In our years here at Hope, we have become steeped in the organization’s history and recognize that what we do now is only possible because we are standing on the shoulders of so many incredible people who have come before us – and also because we have a community of powerful people contributing to Hope today.

Collaborative leadership will remain a priority as we work closely with the other members of the Director Team – Betsy Sohn, our Director of Grant Development and Organizational Learning (who herself has over 20 years at Hope) and Rachel Martinez, our Director of Human Resources and Organizational Culture – to ensure a smooth transition and continuation of Hope’s impactful work. But more than that, Hope’s culture is one of nurturing and developing leadership at all levels. Our capable, creative, and committed staff provide us with confidence as

we face this period of change. We are eager to see the entire organization’s talents shine, making us more resilient and adaptable.

In the coming months, we will work through setting our goals and budget for 2024. Through this process, we will be having conversations and visioning that will inform and guide our search process for the next phase of leadership at Hope. We are committed to maintaining transparency and involving the staff in this important phase. While our timeline is not set in stone, we are estimating that this work will unfold over the next 6-9 months as we move with intention and care to determine what comes next. As we navigate this transition, we will provide updates on the future leadership structure of Hope.

We appreciate your dedication and support. Hope could not exist without the strong commitment of our community. We look forward to what the future will bring for all of us. Together, we will continue to build on the legacy of Hope and build a more powerful, connected community.

In Partnership,

Chaka Mkali and Will Delaney
Co-Executive Directors (Interim)


Download this letter as a PDF

Transitions at Hope

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Greetings Hopesters,

It is from a place of strength and confidence in our plans for the future that we want to share a big change with you, our community. Hope Executive Director Shannon Smith Jones will be leaving Hope next month to take a new role as the Senior Vice President of Community Impact for the Greater Twin Cities United Way.

We wish her success in her new role and thank her for what she has brought to Hope Community. Shannon has invested more than six years of her career here. During her tenure at Hope, Shannon led the organization through the disruptions of COVID, the civic uprisings following the murder of George Floyd, and has increased the organizations budget. Hope was a strong organization with a committed, experienced, and creative staff and board when Shannon arrived. She helped us build on those strategic strengths with major programmatic growth including opening the Best Buy Teen Tech Center, establishing our first contract with our new union, United for Hope, and guiding an inclusive and comprehensive strategic planning process.

We are pleased to share that following Shannon’s departure we have a strong, experienced leadership team in place. The Board of Directors has named Will Delaney and Chaka Mkali as interim co-directors. The leadership team, including Betsy Sohn, Director of Grant Development and Organizational Learning, and Rachel Martinez, Director of Human Resources and Organizational Culture, has collectively more than 50 years of experience at Hope Community. We are confident their leadership will sustain and guide Hope steadily forward.

The Board will use this transition to reflect on the skills and experiences that Hope should seek in its next Executive Director before initiating a formal search process. We are comfortable taking a measured approach because we know the current staff and leadership team are more than capable of carrying forward Hope’s work.

Thank you for your continuous support of Hope Community. We have already accomplished so much together, and this change gives us an opportunity to recommit to our vision for ourselves and our community.

With deep gratitude,
LaCora Bradford Kesti and María Pabón
Hope Board Co-Chairs