St. Cloud

Community engagement project tackles energy burden in St. Cloud's East African community

Project Takes on Barriers to Home Energy Efficiency 

 

Community Grassroots Solutions teamed up with CERTs to provide energy efficiency education and program outreach to low-income families in St. Cloud’s East African immigrant and refugee community.

The Community Engagement for Energy Empowerment project was funded by a Central CERT seed grant.

 

Energy concerns in St. Cloud's immigrant community

Home energy is a big concern for many families in the St. Cloud area. A high energy burden—where families spend a high percentage of their income on energy costs—often means that families are less financially secure, while poor heating, cooling, and ventilation contribute to health and safety concerns. 

On average, St. Cloud’s families spend 2% of their income on energy. But averages only tell part of the story. When it comes to energy burden, there are wide disparities in what different households experience. Poverty is a big part of that: among households living in poverty, average energy burden is nearly 10% of income, and for some households, energy costs take up more than 30% of household income.

While poverty level is a key contributor to disparities, it is not the only factor. Energy burden has also been shown to be disproportionately high within communities of color. What's more, members of immigrant and refugee communities often confront unique barriers (such as limited English proficiency) to accessing information and programs that can help them reduce their energy burden.

That's why, during the spring of 2021, Community Grassroots Solutions, an organization led by and serving the St. Cloud's East African community, partnered with CERTs to increase community members’ knowledge of energy efficiency and assistance programs. The effort was in keeping with CGS's mission to elevate immigrants and refugee communities from poverty and vulnerability to self-sufficiency and to help local communities move forward together.

Community members have different language preferences: some prefer English Language, and some prefer their ethnic language and some of them do not read or write any language and they need [an] interpreter.

Abdiaziz Odiriye, Executive Director, Community Grassroots Solutions

Overcoming barriers to reducing energy burden

For the Community Engagement for Energy Empowerment project, Community Grassroots Solutions made use of two of CERTs’ Home Energy Guides—the renter guide and the single-family home guide—translating them into Somali and using them for outreach into the community. According to Abdiaziz Odiriye, Community Grassroots Solutions Executive Director, it’s important to “be aware that community members have different language preferences: some prefer English Language, and some prefer their ethnic language and some of them do not read or write any language and they need [an] interpreter.”

From understanding the Cold Weather Rule on utility disconnects, to applying for energy assistance, to tips on saving energy in Minnesota’s cold (and hot!) climate, Community Grassroots Solutions’ outreach around the guides helped families in the St. Cloud area learn how to reduce energy costs while improving health and comfort in their homes. Outreach during the project was complicated by the pandemic, but occurred in a variety of ways, including through local schools, Somali businesses, and phone outreach.

Most members of St. Cloud’s East African immigrant and refugee community rent their homes. As such, Odiriye specifically called out the importance of clear communication between renters and building owners and managers. “I would recommend to anyone who’s planning to improve or implement this kind of project to improve the relationship between renters—specifically immigrant and refugee community renters—and their landlords. Landlords should be a partner on energy efficiency and renters should be comfortable to discuss any electricity issues they are experiencing with their landlords.”

I would recommend to anyone who’s planning to...implement this kind of project to improve the relationship between renters—specifically immigrant and refugee community renters—and their landlords. Landlords should be a partner on energy efficiency.

Abdiaziz Odiriye, Community Grassroots Solutions

CERTs resources are available for organizations working on energy burden

Other organizations interested in using CERTs’ home energy guides in their own outreach can find the series on the CERTs website.

  • Energy for Renters (English, Spanish, Somali)
  • Energy for Landlords (English, Spanish)
  • Energy for Single-Family Homes (English, Spanish, Somali)
  • Energy for Manufactured Homes (English, Spanish)

Guides can be customized with the distributing organization’s logo and information.

Project Snapshot

 

Clean Energy Focus: Home and Business Energy Efficiency Education and Outreach

Central CERT Seed Grant: $3,520

Total Project Cost: $5,020

Other Funds: in-kind through staff time

Project Team: Abdiaziz Odiriye and Mohamed Elmi with Community Grassroots Solutions; Melissa Birch with Central CERT

People Involved and Reached: 163

 

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