Linda Taylor, more popularly known as Miss Taylor in her neighborhood, felt devastated when her landlord gave her only a few months to vacate the house she had lived in for almost two decades. But her loving community came together to help her buy back her rightful home.
“My house means everything to me”
The 70-year-old woman had raised her five children in that Minneapolis home but now the landlord had terminated her lease.  Although she had bought the home in 2004, she fell behind on payments and got forced into selling the house back to the previous owner who let her stay and rent. Then in 2006, her landlord was caught in a mortgage fraud scheme. Her current landlord, Greg Berendt, bought the house. Over the pandemic, he had raised the price of rent twice and pushed off maintenance and fixing repairs.
The end of her lease left her in dire straits. “This was not good,” Linda said. “I took care of this house every day. Every appliance I own. All the utilities for 18-plus years, I have paid for.”
Linda had worked at a nonprofit organization for three years before losing her job during the Covid-19 pandemic. But she managed to continue paying her rent of about $1,400 a month with help from family, her savings, and government-issued subsidies like RentHelpMN, which started during the pandemic to help citizens in Minnesota at risk of losing their homes.
But when told to vacate, Linda said it felt like “a stone had just dropped on me. It felt like the world had been pulled from under me. My house means everything to me.”
Trying to find a way to stay, she spoke with her neighbor, Andrew Fahlstrom, 41, a housing rights organizer. They’ve been friends for six years, ever since he joined the neighborhood. “If we actually believe housing is a right, then we need to act like it, because the next stop is homelessness,” he said.
The neighborhood steps in to help
Soon after, Linda’s story spread around the tight-knit community. The Powderhorn neighborhood sits only a few blocks away from George Floyd Square. According to neighbor Jenny Jones, the residents become closer during the upheaval in the summer of 2020. And the neighbors all loved Miss Linda, who enjoyed sitting outside in her garden and chatting with anyone who came to visit her Little Free Library. The energetic grandmother also volunteered to help the neighborhood any chance she got. It was time for the community to return the favor. “We just immediately shifted into high gear and started meeting and trying to figure out a plan to help rectify the situation and ultimately allow her to stay in her home, which is what she wants to do,” Jenny said.
Their efforts included a petition that garnered 400 signatures. It requested the landlord to cancel the lease termination and begin discussing transferring the ownership back to Linda. “People listened to what Miss Linda was saying and wanted to do something,” Andrew said. “It was just such a clear and compelling story that everyone rallied for her.”
Another effort included a neighbor writing an article in Southside Pride. They argued that after paying over $200,000 in culminated rent plus the cost of upkeep, Linda had the right to keep her home.
“The neighborhood’s being proactive in what they’re trying to achieve here and I give them kudos for that,” the landlord, Greg, said. “We’re not trying to cause any issues… We’re willing to work with her in any way we can for her to purchase the home. I’d like to see the home go to her.”
“We will not allow her to be evicted and displaced!”
As a result, the neighbors won Linda two more months, during which they had to raise $250,000 — an amount they’d agreed upon — to purchase the house. So the neighbors threw a block party, with the theme being to save Linda’s home. Donations from the party plus the fundraising through the website built up to a large sum, but not close to the price of the home. “It’s such a crazy market right now. It’s not the greatest time for this, but it’s the right thing to do,” Jenny said.
As the campaign website read: “Miss Linda means so much to this community and has put her own love and labor into maintaining her house as her home. Her community and neighbors are clear: We will not allow her to be evicted and displaced!”
The next fundraising step was an art show auctioning off Linda’s paintings. Throughout all of this, she was extremely grateful for all of the efforts. “I still love my community no matter what happens,” she said. “I still love Powderhorn, I love my neighbors. They’ve been so good to me.”
The donation that made the difference was $200,000 from Longfellow’s Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. Their Stepping Out in Faith committee works to help issues with housing in Minneapolis. Finally, after all of their hard work, the community succeeded in raising $275,000 in three months. Linda bought her home one month ahead of the official deadline. “I’m not going anywhere now,” she said. “It’s saying a lot about my neighbors, and a lot about my community. Without them, this wouldn’t have been possible.” 
She plans to continue hosting movie nights and barbecues for the neighborhood, as well as lemonade stands with her grandkids. Most of all, she plans to spreads the kindness. “I’m here to help the next person and the next person and the next person. It’s been an amazing journey, and it continues on,” she said.
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