As a property owner of rental units around the Twin Cities, Katheryn Schneider considers her purpose in the community is as a housing provider and an advocate for affordable housing. She currently serves on St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter’s rent stabilization commission.
Katheryn is also a community organizer, helping run a 2-acre community garden for refugee and immigrant neighbors, sponsored by Galilee Lutheran Church. These garden plots gives 250 refugee gardeners an opportunity to work the soil to grow healthy, culturally-appropriate vegetables.
Recently, Katheryn wove together these two ventures into one by renting two units to refugee families who were resettled by Arrive Ministries from Syria and Afghanistan.
“This is our first time renting to refugees. It’s been a wonderful experience. We also live next door to the quadplex, so we are more than a housing provider, we are an involved neighbor too,” said Katheryn.
Katheryn and her partner, Chris have shown neighborly hospitality by bringing over extra food, toys, and recently bikes to one of the refugee men to help him get to work, as well as to his kids.
“It’s fun to have kids around; we have a circular driveway for the kids to bike around on. We try to create a community environment and be good neighbors to these families; we enjoy learning from their cultures as well,” said Katheryn.
She says the Syrian family often returns their hospitality by bringing over plates of Middle Eastern cuisine for her family, plus both families are good renters, which is always a plus for a property owner.
“They are really respectful of our rules, even catching on to our recycling requests better than some of the American families we rent to. Renting to refugees has been easier and more consistent than some of our other renters,” said Katheryn.
Katheryn often coordinates with the volunteer Good Neighbor teams from Arrive Ministries. The Syrian family is connected to a team from Church of the Redeemer in Arden Hills, and the Afghan family is connected to a team from Calvary Church in Roseville.
“We contact the volunteers if the families need something, and they contact us if they see a need regarding housing,” said Katheryn. “It’s a treat that Arrive Ministries has such a large support system for these families, and we are happy to be a part of that network of support for our new refugee neighbors.”