As a project manager with PPL’s Housing Development department for the last four years, Mandy manages our affordable housing developments through various stages of the project, from submitting funding applications through construction. We caught up with her to talk about why PPL, what she likes about her job, and to learn more about a new PPL development she’s managing, Ain Dah Yung Supportive Housing project.
Q: Why have you chosen to work at PPL?
Mandy: Before moving to Minnesota, I had trained and worked as an architect in Massachusetts and New York. However, I felt that I wanted to do more toward community development. While exploring my options I came in contact with PPL and was very intrigued with the work that they were doing. This was in 2009 when the foreclosure crisis was at its peak, and non-profits like PPL were working hard to help re-build neighborhoods. I identified strongly with the mission and the work we were doing, appreciated the culture of support and trust, and really valued being part of this world. So when the opportunity came to join full time, it was an easy choice.
Q: What do you like about working at PPL?
Mandy: I like working on our development projects knowing that we are helping provide housing for a family or individual in need. I firmly believe that stable housing is key for a stable life. It is especially gratifying to work on youth-related projects, because we become a part of something that’s so transformative for their lives. But beyond that I also enjoy how close-knit the development community is, not only within PPL but externally as well. A lot of our work is collaborative and it is amazing to see how different agencies come together to make a project work.
Q: Tell us more about PPL’s new development, Ain Dah Yung
Mandy: Ain Dah Yung Center (ADYC) is a St. Paul based non-profit agency which works primarily with homeless Native American youth. PPL and ADYC are collaborating on a permanent supportive housing project for Native youth between the ages of 18-24. It is a wonderful team effort where two non-profits are bringing their best skills to the table to develop this one-of-a-kind supportive housing project.
Q: Why does this project matter?
Mandy: ADYC is doing a tremendous job supporting Native youth already. However, there is still a great need for stable housing for youth who age out of county systems (for example, foster care or transitional shelters). Most of them end up back on the streets.
The proposed project is critical, because it fills an immense gap in available services designed to meet the specific needs of Native American youth. In Minnesota, only 2% of the population is Native American —yet 22% of all homeless youth are Native American. The most recent report from the Wilder Foundation estimates that there are over 14,000 homeless people in Minnesota on any given day, with the vast majority located in the Twin Cities. Young people are disproportionately represented, making up nearly half of the homeless population. However, while the effects of homelessness are particularly devastating for young people, young people from this demographic are very resilient and, as a group, more likely than their older homeless peers to make positive progress toward becoming healthy, contributing, system-independent adults. Supportive housing is absolutely vital to this transition out of homelessness and to productive adulthood.
One of the key reasons for this high disparity among the American Indian population is that Native youth are struggling with historic trauma that occurred to their people during the Boarding School era. As a result, Native youth are not only homeless, but also struggle with an identity crisis. ADYC’s cultural intervention approach has been very successful in helping children and youth find their path forward. This supportive housing project will include not only traditional supportive services for youth, but also offer unique cultural programming that includes traditional singing, drum making, beading, Sweat Lodge ceremonies and other related activities.
Thank you, Mandy, for your important role at PPL, and for sharing more about our upcoming development project, Ain Dah Yung. Stay tuned for more information about the project in the coming months.