Nonprofit Spotlight: Movin' Out revamps its mission to address racial equity
by Samantha Haas
on Thursday, September 29th, 2022 at 3:39pm.
Five years after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990, a group of parents of children with disabilities founded Movin’ Out to “improve housing access and support, helping to build healthier, more resilient communities.” Over the years, the statewide nonprofit has provided critical housing resources and multi-family rental housing for people with intellectual, physical, or mental disabilities, people with low to moderate incomes, and veterans.
“As a social justice organization founded around the time ADA was passed, it’s past time for us to acknowledge that our organization has a responsibility and role to play in advancing racial equity and racial justice,” said Movin’ Out Executive Director Kathryne Auerback. “People of color are disproportionately impacted by disability, and there’s a long history of racial discrimination being woven into our housing systems.”
To ensure its operations and programs help to advance racial justice, Movin’ Out has been working with EQT by Design to create a racial equity roadmap with internal and external steps. As part of this effort, the nonprofit recently created new vision, mission, and values statements and a strategic plan. Movin’ Out has also been intentionally working to build relationships and increase the diversity of its staff (now majority people of color) and board (5 out of 13 are people of color, and at least one-third are people with disabilities and represent low-income communities). Auerback acknowledged that even if Movin’ Out checks off every task on the list, they’ll still have more work to do.
“It’s one thing to recruit people of color to your organization or board, but it’s really important ongoing work to build a culture that creates belonging for all members so that people can come into the space and bring their whole authentic selves and not have to put a mask on at work to get along. When you put things in place to support communities that have been marginalized, you’re creating a really great organization for everyone who works there,” she said, citing the curb-cut effect that benefited not only people with disabilities, but also elderly people, young children, people pushing strollers or dollies – essentially everyone who uses sidewalks.
Photo submitted by Movin’ Out: Pinney Lane Apartments, a 70-unit multifamily mixed-use rental apartment building, is a joint venture between Movin’ Out and Stone House Development located on the east side of Madison.
Auerback first learned about Movin’ Out in 2011 (about 6 years before she joined the staff) when she was working in the sustainability leadership graduate program at Edgewood College. “I read about their multi-family rental project in Stoughton called Elven Sted, which was a real-life model for all the things we were talking about in that program. It was built using green building technology and stormwater management design with rain gardens and native prairie plants, and they worked to help get a grant to start a social enterprise for one of the residents (a person with disabilities) to collect prairie seeds from the plants and sell those wholesale. It was a very cool full circle model and very innovative approach to creating really diverse communities, and just like in ecosystems, diversity creates more resilient outcomes and healthier communities.”
Although there are other organizations that tackle HUD-approved housing counseling, home buyer education, downpayment assistance, apartment rental development, and home repair, Movin’ Out addresses all of the above with a focus on centering households that include someone with disabilities. “The work that Movin' Out is doing in our community is vital,” realtor Ann Raschein said. “I have seen the impact first hand. I have worked with several clients that have obtained homeownership because of Movin' Out's programs. They are truly enriching lives!”
Photo submitted by Max Woods: For the second consecutive year, Mad City Dream Homes was proud to sponsor Realtors Association of South Central Wisconsin's "Kickin' It With Forward Madison" fundraiser for Movin' Out.
“Our approach to civil rights issues of community integration and self-determination is unique,” Auerback said. “We don’t congregate or segregate people with disabilities in any way (there is a 25% maximum occupancy for people with disabilities in the multi-family units) and we are very intentional about keeping supportive services separate from housing, because we believe that people should have control over who comes in and out of your front door.”
Auerback said there are a lot of misperceptions about affordable housing and what that means for a community, which is why it’s important for citizens to advocate and get involved. “Go to public meetings when affordable housing proposals are on the table, and vote for people who support affordable housing,” she said.
There are several Movin’ Out multi-family projects under construction or opening in Dane County, including on East Washington Avenue and South Park Street in Madison and in Cottage Grove. To learn more or make a donation to support the nonprofit, visit movin-out.org.