Local transgender activists are hoping to raise enough money to purchase a house in South Minneapolis centered on providing housing for queer and transgender youth.
Jack Childs, who is biracial and transgender, is working with roommates to buy the house from Call To Action, a national Catholic organization that owns the property and is listing it for sale. Rye House, as the building is known, has housed about a dozen people rent free for about two years, and residents hope to continue providing a home for queer and transgender people experiencing housing instability, including transgender people of color.
The goal is to reach $25,000; they have raised about $3,000, according to their GoFundMe fundraiser. In January, Childs filed for Rye House to be incorporated as a tax-exempt housing cooperative. Childs, along with roommates, are helping spread the word on social media.
“It’s literally just like a filing fee, and some paperwork, and it’s just like a lot of paperwork,” Childs said of the process of launching a cooperative. “But it’s been this really amazing step forward towards getting independence.”
Nearly 30 percent of LGBTQ youth reported experiencing homelessness or housing instability at some point in their lives, according to a 2022 research report by The Trevor Project. LGBTQ youth of color were overrepresented among such youth experiencing homelessness or housing instability.
Rye House residents built a community for each other, prioritizing making and sharing meals together, celebrating holidays, and leaning on each other for support, said Delfin Bautista, who lived in Rye House for several months last year.
“This wasn’t just roommates cohabitating in a house… The goal really was for us to interact on many different levels,” Bautista said.
Call To Action bought the house in July 2021 for $100,000, said Lauren Barbato, Call To Action’s communications coordinator. Rye House was intended to serve as a pilot program for “cultivating a community rooted in the values of Catholic Social Teaching and mutual aid,” she said.
Call To Action describes its mission as to “activate Catholics to act for justice and build inclusive communities.”
Rye House was the first house Call To Action purchased, she said, and the organization soon realized it was more work than they were prepared to handle.
“I think we were a little… over our heads, because it’s a lot,” Barbato said. “When you get into the business of buying houses, it’s a lot for an organization, which is what we did not expect.”
After Call To Action bought the house, it sought caretakers for Rye House. Childs and one of his friends stepped in to fill those roles. In summer 2021, they both moved into the house.
Call To Action had a written agreement with Childs and his friend to serve as caretakers, but did not sign leases with them or any Rye House tenants, Barbato said.
According to the caretaker agreement, Childs and his friend were responsible for general cleaning and maintenance, and for preparing the house for visitors. The caretakers were allowed to live in the house as long as they paid a monthly fee of $150 each. Other residents started moving into the house in November 2021, and did not pay rent.
Rye House residents received a letter from Call to Action on December 23 stating that an eviction notice would be filed soon and advising them that new residents should not move into the house. Barbato said Rye House residents were given a deadline of February 1 to buy the house. The house will be put up for sale at a fair market value, she added.
“This decision, it was not taken lightly and it also wasn’t out of the blue,” Barbato said, adding that the vacate date was pushed to sometime in April so residents would have a place to stay during the winter.
The cost of operating Rye House exceeded Call To Action’s capacity, Barbato said. Most of Rye House’s expenses and utilities bills were paid by Call To Action and a small amount of donations, she added.
Nearly a year before sending the December eviction notice, Call To Action started conversations with Rye House residents and caretakers asking them to take on more financial responsibility in covering the house’s expenses and utilities, but neither side could reach an agreement, Barbato said. The house’s caretakers were well aware that Rye House could be closed if they didn’t contribute more financially, she added.
Childs said the possibility of losing the house lurked in the background of those discussions, but felt that the risk of eviction wasn’t communicated clearly.
“I think a lot of that had to do with miscommunication and lack of communication from CTA (Call to Action) to the house,” said Bautista, who also previously served as a Call To Action board member.
Bautista lived at Rye House between November 2021 to July 2022 with their partner, and served as a mentor to other residents. Bautista moved out when they were offered a job in California.
Childs and current Rye House residents hope to raise enough money to buy the house or a different house.