“I wish that I lived in a place like Compass on Dexter, or Ronald Commons, or at Broadview as a kid,” said Tawnie Fransen Director of Housing Operations. “If I had, I wouldn’t have been embarrassed and I would have been able to do the normal kid things like have friends over afterschool. What we do at Compass for children and families is so important, we help them overcome barriers and break the cycle of poverty.”

Tawnie has been with Compass for more than three years. She oversees the operations of 14 affordable housing buildings and two single family homes. These locations house families and individuals who make between 30-50% of the area median income and many of these locations work with both section 8 subsidies and various housing authorities.

Section 8 is a rental subsidy program where a family or individual pays 30% of their adjusted monthly income in rent, with allowances for disability, children, and out-of-pocket medical expenses. The housing authority picks up the rest of the cost. If a tenant’s income goes up, so does their share of the rent.

“As a kid, I knew that my mom didn’t have section 8 or we would have been living in an affordable place,” she said. “As a family of six kids, we knew exactly when the food stamps came in because we had more snacks to share and more nutritious dinners. I’ve seen first-hand how affordable housing can enable families to thrive.”

Having affordable housing available for all who need it is key to solving some of the systematic problems that trap people in poverty. We combine that affordability with programmatic support which helps residents not just survive but thrive. “Our affordable housing is safe, colorful, and a great place for kids,” she said. “We create a sense of belonging. We have summer events, summer camps, and collaborate with the community for art projects and enrichment. They may not have these types of opportunities anywhere else.”

Tawnie has a passion for this work because she has a connection to the circumstances many of our individuals and families face.

“I grew up in poverty and I supported myself since I was seventeen,” she said. “I put myself through college, but I could have very easily fallen into similar patterns that some of my family did. I was exposed to things that I didn’t want in my life and it drove me to live the life that I wanted. I believe that everyone deserves to be safe and warm and in a place they can call home. Housing is a fundamental building block to address barriers and trauma and the fact that we combine it with programmatic support on-site is so important to folks coming out of chronic homelessness. We give people a dignified place to live. They can take pride in it.”

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