Minneapolis legal service will continue to serve those who don’t speak English for free

47 percent of callers to HOME Line, a tenant advocacy organization which gives consultation in Spanish and Somali, were non-Caucasian according to a 2016 report.

by Christopher Lemke

Minneapolis’ Somali and Spanish speaking residents will continue to receive free rental legal advice services in their languages after the city of Minneapolis renewed funds to a nonprofit.

The Minneapolis City Council approved $100,000 and a six-month extension for services from the tenant advocacy organization HOME Line to keep offering confidential service in English, Spanish and Somali to tenants in the state — particularly aiming to help immigrants and low-income households.

Zeynab Egale, a Somali tenant advocate with HOME Line, said the options for multiple languages are especially helpful for Somali-Americans who sometimes encounter landlords who treat them unfairly.

“Oftentimes, [landlords] feel the freedom to treat the Somali-American community differently than they would a white person.” Egale said.

HOME Line offers in-person, phone or email consultations. Egale said the different formats help different people.

“[Somali-Americans] like to come and talk, in-person. And that’s the same for the Spanish community as well. They like the one-on-one contact,” she said.

In 2016, HOME Line fielded 3,382 phone calls from Minneapolis households, according to a HOME Line report. Of those, 318 came from the ward that includes the Cedar Riverside neighborhood, 312 from the ward that includes the Marcy Holmes and Dinkytown neighborhoods and 157 from the ward that covers the rest of East Bank, according to a 2016 report.

Eighty-seven percent of the Minneapolis HOME Line callers in 2016 fell at or below low-income and nearly 47 percent were non-Caucasian, the report said.

HOME Line’s Director of Organizing and Public Policy, Eric Hauge, said while the funding helps HOME Line give advice to tenants, it doesn’t cover all the costs to provide the service.

HOME Line analyzes problems from across the state and the metro — often identifying specific communities or buildings with recurring issues, Hauge said.