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A Minneapolis woman was about to be deported. Neighbors bought her house.

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Linda Taylor was given two months’ notice by her landlord to vacate the Minneapolis home she’s proudly called home for nearly two decades.

“I felt like the world had been ripped away from me,” Taylor, 70, said. “My home means everything to me.”

She originally owned the house, but sold it when it fell prey to a real estate transaction she didn’t understand, she said, and rented the house for about 15 year.

Earlier this year, Taylor received unexpected notice from her landlord to move out of her white stucco home in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood, a few miles south of downtown, by April 1. Its landlord wanted to sell the house and was asking for $299,000 – a sum Taylor could not afford.

“I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat,” said Taylor, who lives alone in the two-bedroom home. “I felt really defeated.”

She worked at a local nonprofit for almost three years before being laid off during the coronavirus pandemic.

She lost her paycheck but continued to pay rent — around $1,400 a month — using her savings, family money and government grants, including RentHelpMNa program launched during the pandemic to help Minnesotans at risk of losing their homes.

When Taylor’s owner Greg Berendt told her to leave, it was like “a rock just fell on me,” she said.

He said he would evict her if she didn’t buy the house or leave, she said. Berendt declined an interview request from The Washington Post when reached by phone.

Taylor said that despite her distress, she was determined to stay.

“I’m going to do something about it,” Taylor recalled thinking to himself. “It’s my house.”

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She decided to share her struggle with Andrew Fahlstrom, 41, who lives across the street and works professionally as a housing rights organizer. Since moving to the neighborhood six years ago with his partner, he and Taylor have established a strong relationship.

“She was always the one in the neighborhood who greets everyone,” Fahlstrom said.

He contacted neighbors to see what they could do to help Taylor. Given his work, Fahlstrom knew Taylor’s story was not unique, especially since the the local housing market has exploded during the last years.

“So many people are losing their homes right now,” he said. “If we really believe housing is a right, then we need to act on it, because the next step is homelessness.”

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As news of the grassroots campaign to save Taylor’s home spread through the block, neighbors were eager to help.

“People listened to what Miss Linda was saying and wanted to do something,” Fahlstrom said. “It was such a clear and compelling story that everyone rallied around it.”

According to Taylor, she originally bought the house in 2004, but began to fall behind on payments and felt pressured into giving the house up to the previous owner, who allowed her to stay on as a than tenant. In 2006, after its owner was caught in a mortgage fraud scheme – which affected more than 45 homes, including his own – Berendt bought the house.

He raised his rent twice during the pandemic, Taylor said, and let repair and maintenance issues linger.

Several times over the years, Taylor — who has five children, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren — has approached social services and applied for programs and grants for renters who want to buy their homes.

“Every time I tried to buy it, I hit a ton of different walls,” Taylor said, adding that while she knew “my kids would always have my back,” they weren’t able to. provide significant financial assistance.

His neighbors sympathize with his plight.

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“He is a person who has been paying for accommodation for 18 years. His rent went to pay for property taxes, other people’s mortgages, insurance, and supposedly repairs too,” Fahlstrom said. “There needs to be more systemic intervention so people can stay in their homes.”

The community of Powderhorn Park decided that they would not allow their neighbor to be moved. The group was well equipped to mobilize on Taylor’s behalf.

“We have an active local neighborhood group because we are less than two blocks from George Floyd SquareFahlstrom said, adding that the 2020 protests over the police killing of Floyd brought the community together. “The infrastructure was there, the line of communication was there, the neighborly relations were there.”

The organizers sent a letter to the owner, urging him to wait for the eviction and start negotiations with Taylor so she could buy the house. It was signed by about 400 neighbors and hand-delivered to Berendt in February.

The advocacy worked. Berendt said Taylor could continue renting with the option of buying the house by June 31. He lowered the sale price to $250,000 – still out of reach for his tenant.

“Then it became a fundraising effort instead of an eviction advocacy effort,” Fahlstrom said.

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Neighbor Julia Eagles was at the forefront of the initiative.

“I don’t want anyone to be moved or kicked out of the community,” Eagles said. “We all collectively thought we were going to do what it took to keep Miss Linda here. So many people know and love this woman.

Taylor is known for the small free library on her lawn, which she continues to fill with books, as well as her regular volunteer work in the community.

“They call me the mayor,” Taylor joked.

Community members organized fundraising efforts, including a block party, social media campaigns and an art exhibition – in which Taylor, who loves to paint, sold some of his works. Local media covered the story, attracting more attention.

The organizers have created a campaign website and one fundraising page, bringing in donations ranging from $5 to $15,000. A local church donated the largest sum – $200,000 – carrying the effort to the finish line.

“When that happened, my faith became bigger than a mountain,” Taylor said.

In just four months, the people of Powderhorn Park raised $275,000 for Taylor – enough to buy her house and cover repairs. Any additional funds will go towards utility payments.

Taylor said she was stunned by the support.

“I knew my neighbors loved me, but I didn’t know how much,” she says.

On May 31, a month before her landlord’s deadline, Taylor closed her house. After nearly 20 years, the house was finally his.

“When it’s yours, it gives you a different kind of feeling,” Taylor said. “I’m safe, I’m safe and I have a home.”

She plans to continue hosting barbecues, movie nights and lemonade stands with her grandchildren. And she’s determined to pay the kindness forward.

“I’m here to help the next person and the next person and the next person,” she said.

To celebrate the neighborhood-wide victory, there will be a block party on June 25.

“It’s been an amazing journey, and it’s still going,” Taylor said.

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