BY VANESSA DEL CAMPO CHACON
Four years ago I moved here from Mexico with my family and four friends. When we arrived, everything was new and foreign. We didn’t know where to go or how to start our lives over. But we found this apartment. I liked it because the neighbors speak Spanish, there are Mexican stores nearby, and it made us feel a little less lonely. So we made it our home.
It hasn’t been easy. My husband works long hours to scrape money together so I can support my son who is studying to be a chef in Mexico. I stay home with my daughter, Regina, but she is only 1 year old and I get lonely.
It’s not what I pictured when I moved here, but I have gotten to know the women who stay home and my other neighbors. I look after my neighbors’ kids while they work, and we are a community now. My home and my community are what keep me going; I don’t know what I would be without them.
My neighbors and I are united around a dream. We have been organizing, training ourselves and raising money to purchase our homes so we can own them as a housing cooperative. Out landlord Steve Frenz has ignored our buildings for a while, so we have learned how to make a lot of our repairs ourselves and we take care of each other. About a month ago my door broke, and I was desperate because I felt unsafe because I was unable to lock my door. My other neighbor came over and fixed the door for me, and even taught me how to do it myself next time.
We have met with Frenz about our concerns many times. We have raised over $126,000 and allocated over $4.78 million in financing to purchase our homes. Unfortunately, he still hasn’t agreed to sell us our buildings. Instead, my family and three other families are now facing eviction.
At the end of March, my neighbors and I received court summons for eviction proceedings. I knew this could happen, but it still broke my heart that Steve and Jennifer Frenz are trying to break up our community. My neighbors and I are like a family. Our children are growing up together, we look out for each other, and we stand united when we face struggle. Steve and Jennifer Frenz aren’t just evicting four families from our homes, they are tearing apart a community.
Our first appearance in court was on Friday, April 5, and since then we have had two other pre-trial hearings. At all three hearings, we have been greeted by amazing community support. It is very empowering to have so many people caring for one another and being there to support each other in court. After the most recent hearing, the referee is deliberating about whether or not to allow us a jury trial and hopefully we will find out what will happen next to our homes.
Even as Steve and Jennifer Frenz are moving forward with evictions, we have continued to build our community and care for our homes. Recently, we organized a brief rally and protest to pay for our buildings’ water bill. Steve Frenz hadn’t been paying the water bills for our five buildings since January 2019 and our water was about to be shut off. We decided to pool our money together and pay the water bill of over $6,000 dollars. While Steve Frenz has been neglecting our buildings for years, we know our homes better than he does and we are ready to own them as a housing cooperative. We held a rally on the second floor of the Minneapolis Public Service building and then paid the bill to set the path for the cooperative ownership we soon hope to achieve in our buildings.
In mid-April we decided to have a community celebration, to connect with supporters throughout the city and to celebrate our homes and community. We held a gathering in my home, in my building. Thanks to the warmth and love that we have created as a family in our homes, the party was a beautiful celebration of home and community.
Over 200 tenants and community members gathered and shared food, music and built closer relationships. I was amazed by how many people came out to support us and to see where we live. I was happy that so many people were able to witness that we are making Steve Frenz a good, market-rate, reasonable offer that will allow everyone to win. We are ready to purchase our buildings to run them as a housing cooperative, allowing over 35 families of color to stay in our neighborhood and build a culture of cooperation across the city. We were also joined by Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson. He spoke to why he doesn’t want to carry out evictions in our homes, and why he thinks our offer to Steve Frenz is a fair offer. “I support the sale because it makes the transition easier, and we (the sheriff’s office) don’t have to get involved,” said Sheriff Hutchinson during a brief speech in front of my neighbor’s home that is facing eviction. He added: “Everyone in the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County talks about the dream of homeownership and that we are all together united as a community regardless of what we look like, who we love or who we pray to. If we can get this sale, it’s going to make families’ lives better, it’s going to make the community better.”
Now, more than ever, we need the support of our neighbors and allies across the city. Depending on the referee’s decision, I could face eviction as soon as May. We will continue to organize to protect our homes, and for the cooperative we deserve. Join us in fighting for long-term, dignified, affordable and safe housing for everyone in Minneapolis. Sign our pledge to act by sending a message with the word “Stay” to the number 474747. For more information on our campaign and how to get involved visit