Over the last few weeks, more than 800 NFL players have showcased causes that have a special place in their life as part of the league's My Cause, My Cleats campaign. Every cleat tells a story and allows each player the opportunity to leverage their platform to make a difference.
This year Kirk Cousins has decided to partner up with the local organization, Urban Homeworks. The organization transforms vacant properties into dignified, healthy homes in Minneapolis and St. Paul, redeeming real estate so that the community can catalyze change agents and leaders. In an effort to learn more about Urban Homeworks and why the Cousins family loves them so much, we sat down with one of the individuals who makes it all happen.
Q&A with Anna Decrans, Innovation & Special Projects Manager
1. What is it about Urban Homeworks that makes it different from other organizations?
Urban Homeworks believes in the power of building a community through equitable housing. What makes us different is that we truly care about people and preserving human dignity. We hold empathy, compassion, grace, and mercy in high regard. Which is exemplified in the housing we create across many levels, but especially for individuals who are surviving systemic injustices. We believe in the power of neighboring and walking alongside people. Because we have the ability to be innovative and flexible, we pride ourselves in thinking outside the box and we readily respond to challenges and requests to try new things.
2. Can you walk us through the process of one of your projects?
Community Engagement and Development is a complex process and takes some time. It’s generally easy to identify the “starting point”; however, knowing when the work is complete is difficult to determine due to how ingrained and embedded we are in the community. Within this work, we usually create and rely upon neighborhood surveys, mostly utilizing data and benchmarks from The Hennepin County SHAPE survey. Communities that have endured generations of socio-economic injustices and disparities will likely take generations to heal and prosper through engagement work. Real Estate Development is a piece of the community development work that can be a couple months up to a few years, depending on project scale and scope. Ultimately, community development is a marathon, not a sprint. Our process is to meet immediate needs while challenging and changing the systems that have spawned the urgency for change.
3. How has being a partner of the Julie and Kirk Cousins Foundation impacted Urban Homeworks?
Julie and Kirk’s involvement with our organization has been inspiring and re-energizing. For UHW to be sought out by their Foundation is extremely humbling. I’m encouraged by their faith and their conviction to contribute to a local, small, thriving organization. We’re eager to deepen our relationship with Julie and Kirk while maintaining humility and not exploiting our beautiful communities. We’re definitely bringing in more football fans to the UHW family! Their involvement has helped us leverage a whole new audience of donors and given our work a brighter spotlight in this time of critical need for sustainable affordable housing opportunities.
4. What has your personal journey at Urban Homeworks been like?
I am the Innovation and Special Projects Manager. I’ve been a part of the UHW staff for over 7 years – first in property management, then accounting, and now my current position. There’s so much to love about UHW, but what I really love is our mission – to perpetuate hope. The work is challenging and invigorating – we’re thoughtful in our approach – we appreciate differences. My gifts (and opportunities for growth) are utilized to disrupt unjust systems in small but meaningful ways.