Neighbors unite to save elder’s home in South Minneapolis

Photo by Cole Miska Crowd gathered in front of Linda Taylor’s house (Taylor’s in the middle behind the purple sign)

Community members gathered on East 36th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues South on Friday, April 1 to rally support for 70-year-old resident Linda Taylor to stay in her home.

Taylor was informed by her landlord in January that she would have to vacate her Powderhorn home where she has lived for 18 years. Neighbors organized and were able to get Taylor’s landlord Gregory Berendt to rescind the notice to vacate and agree to sell the house to Taylor.

Taylor says she loves the area and does not want to leave.

“Since I’ve been in this house, I had four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren,” Taylor said. “I even had the sorrow of losing my oldest daughter.” 

“I’m a big part of this neighborhood, I want to [continue to] be a big part of this neighborhood,” she added.

Taylor originally purchased the house in 2004 but went into foreclosure the following year. Taylor says the man she purchased it from in 2004, Todd Cushman, convinced her to sign a contract that he claimed would have her pay rent to him but maintain ownership of the home.

Taylor alleges Cushman misrepresented his verbal claims, and by signing the contract, she unknowingly signed ownership of her home over to Cushman. Cushman pleaded guilty to four counts of swindling in 2008, and Taylor says her house was one of the properties listed in that case.

The property went back to the bank after Cushman’s convictions and was purchased by Berendt. Taylor said she never had a chance to buy back the house.

“Greg came underneath and said, ‘I’m your new landlord; I bought the house,’” Taylor said. “I never went to court for foreclosure or anything. Next thing I knew, Greg was the owner.”

Taylor says she held her ground when Berendt first asked her to move out. She used to work as a drywaller and has done many repairs to the house herself, including upgrades such as weatherization.

Berendt originally gave Taylor a move-out date of April 1. Taylor was willing to negotiate to try to keep her home but noted that her and Berendt’s relationship was strictly a business relationship, so he probably would not be giving her any favors.

Photo by Cole Miska Linda Taylor dancing with neighbors (front in brown coat)

“I’ve never been his friend; he’s never been my friend,” Taylor said. “He’s just my landlord. He’s never done anything for me in this home.”

Taylor is well known in her neighborhood—she says people know her as the “soup lady” from working at the soup kitchen. She first asked her neighbor Andrew Fahlstrom for help and said the word about her situation snowballed from there.

“Miss Linda has been an institution in this neighborhood,” Fahlstrom said. “She knows everyone, she is the friendliest person in a five-block radius, and everyone knows who she is, so I really couldn’t let it happen.”

Fahlstrom talked with others in the neighborhood and came up with several ideas. The group circulated a letter with 430 signatures asking to let Taylor stay and sent it to Berendt. They started a website savelindashome.wordpress.com describing Taylor’s situation, as well as a fundraiser givebutter.com/VMySZz .

In the end, their efforts paid off—Berendt agreed to rescind the notice to vacate the property and agreed to give Taylor priority in buying the property, granted she could raise the funds by the end of June.

The organization of the block party was not only a celebration for Taylor and her neighbors, but also intended to create awareness of the funds they hope to raise.

As a press release for the party stated, “The goals of these upcoming events are two-fold, first to celebrate that community action pushed the timeline to buy the home out to July 2022, thereby stopping eviction, and second, to raise awareness about the campaign to save the home for Miss Linda to continue to reside in.”

Through it all, Taylor says one of the most important things she has learned is how valuable neighborhood relations can be. “It’s good to know your neighbors,” Taylor said. “And that’s a sign of what’s happening today—that we need to reach out to each other, and talk to each other, and support each other when we need it.”

Update June 14, 2022: Linda Taylor recently closed on her home and is the official homeowner thanks to donations from the community.

For more info and to donate to Taylor’s cause to keep her house, go to givebutter.com/VMySZz.