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Letter: Council vote shuts down respectful conversation

The Moorhead City Council had an opportunity to open up a dialogue about diversity and community. Instead they fueled the flames of division. Their vote was largely symbolic. However, in voting not to embrace low-income apartments run and facilitated by Churches United for the Homeless, the council has effectively shut down all conversation between current neighbors and future neighbors at the proposed site. My hope is that the current neighborhood will give the residents of the proposed low-income apartment building an opportunity to prove themselves before jumping to conclusions about the types of people they might be.

I love living in an older, very charming neighborhood in Moorhead, just west of Concordia College. But because we live so close to the colleges, we live near many renters. Ninety percent of those renters are wonderful neighbors. But many of the landlords are, in essence, slumlords. They charge high rent for relatively little shelter.

When I have had an opportunity to go into a couple of the rentals, I have seen doors that don’t latch properly, broken windows and sagging roofs. A couple of blocks down, a renter has rigged what appears to be a slide out of their apartment window.

I know that if Churches United were facilitating any of these rentals, they would be up to code. Renters would be held accountable for how the property is cared for. The drug deals and theft that folks have expressed concern over are unlikely to happen because these families would lose the support of Churches United and thus their home, if any of their behavior was illegal or particularly unsavory.

I’ve had the privilege this summer of volunteering at Churches United once a week. I’ve been working with a group from Minnesota State University Moorhead, taking school-age children out once a week on field trips. I can tell you that these children and their parents are loving and affectionate with one another and the volunteers and staff around them.

I’d like to encourage the future neighbors of these children and their families to get to know them and welcome them into your neighborhood. They might just remind you of what is good in this world, as they have reminded me.

I would be proud to have these families and this organization in my neighborhood.