Across Minnesota, families with children who have autism or other disabilities struggle to stay in rental homes in the face of disruptions or damage caused by the kids. The situation is particularly acute in the Somali community, where one in 32 children between ages 7 and 9 is on the autism spectrum, according to a University of Minnesota study. That compares to 1 in 48 for children of that age in the overall population.
The Minnesota Legislature tried in 2013 to help alleviate the problem by creating a $500,000 fund aimed at providing housing for families like Ahmed’s. But bureaucratic glitches have kept the money in limbo, with the families unable to access it.
The money initially was allocated to the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, which finances housing for low- and middle-income families. MHFA then advertised for community-based organizations to apply for the money so it could be distributed to needy families. Although they initially showed interest, Habitat for Humanity and City of Lakes Community Land Trust never applied.
Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity spokesman Matt Haugen said that because the organization works both as a builder and a lender, it would risk violating fair lending laws if it took money tied to a specific goal, like housing for families of autistic children facing eviction. “It’s certainly not a matter of what we want to do; it’s a matter of how we do it,” Haugen said. City of Lakes did not respond to requests for an interview.