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Alum Works to Provide Stable Housing in Chicago’s Uptown Neighborhood

Business alumnus Dan Minea ’14 has channeled his passion for social justice into helping young men in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood through his nonprofit Collective Chicago, a dignified housing project focused on holistic health and professional development.

By Katie Johnson ’19, content specialist

January 15, 2021 | Noon

"It's really cool to see how much the residents have overcome, and just to journey alongside these guys is the best gift and coolest job I've ever—will ever have," says Dan Minea '14.

"It's really cool to see how much the residents have overcome, and just to journey alongside these guys is the best gift and coolest job I've ever—will ever have," says Dan Minea '14.

Growing up, Dan Minea ’14 believed he had to hold his family together. As a middle child, he witnessed the challenges his older three siblings faced with addiction and juvenile detention, and in response, he tried to set a positive example for his younger siblings. From their household in Shakopee, Minnesota, Minea experienced both deep love and deep brokenness, and as he began to struggle with depression as a young teenager, he couldn’t help but ask, “What’s the point?”

Ten years later, Minea has channeled his drive to care for others along with his personal mental health journey into the nonprofit Collective Chicago—a dignified housing space to help young men establish and maintain a stable lifestyle. Minea says Collective Chicago functions with a “housing first” model, giving their residents a place to live as a foundation from which they can work toward getting a job, receiving counseling, and developing their community. “We ended up calling it Collective Chicago because it was a dream of holistic care where people, their talents, and the community come together hyper-locally and holistically,” Minea says.

Collective Chicago focuses on the relationships Minea and his team form with the residents, especially as they all live in the same household.

Collective Chicago focuses on the relationships Minea and his team form with the residents, especially as they all live in the same household.

Individuals and companies rooted in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood have eagerly contributed their resources and gifts. From trauma-informed consultants to gym partners and even Minea’s own psychiatrist, the men involved in Collective Chicago have access to affordable therapy, personal training, physical therapists, and counseling. In November 2018, Collective started as a two-bedroom apartment in a building where Minea himself used to live, and today, The Collective is transitioning to a new, four-story building thanks to a donor’s generosity. They’re raising funds to renovate and furnish the space to reflect the dignity and worth Minea hopes the residents experience when they participate in everything The Collective has to offer. 

“I don't get hand-me-downs, because guys aren't hand-me-downs,” Minea says. “These guys deserve and can reach these spaces in which they may not have been born into. That's why we take such a unique approach to not just be scrappy—because we are scrappy financially in a lot of ways—but we don't skimp on that dignity component.”

While Minea is grateful for the various resources The Collective can offer, his favorite aspect of the work they’re doing is rooted in the relationships he and his team form with the residents. Even when The Collective first started, Minea and his team lived alongside residents to give them what they needed to ultimately change their lives—someone in their corner, no matter what. Their relationships are based on mutuality, and he says they continually learn from each other as equals. “I'm just continuing to be a student and learn from the guys,” Minea says. “The space provides a launchpad for them to change their lives and journey through hard stuff and good stuff—and everything in between, together.”

Business alumnus Dan Minea '14 is the executive director and co-founder of Collective Chicago.

Business alumnus Dan Minea '14 is the executive director and co-founder of Collective Chicago.

Minea is familiar with a life rich with everything in between. During his freshman year at Bethel, when his parents announced their divorce and Minea experienced a breakup, he found himself losing hope. He assumed he was meant to fix these broken relationships, but eventually he heard God say, “Let it go. It’s not yours to hold.” From that moment, Minea’s focus shifted from asking, “What’s the point?” to “Why does God have me here?” 

He kept showing up to his classes, relationships, and jobs, and he began to think more about his faith when one of his professors opened class with prayer. Minea found his heart deeply moved by social justice and felt called to do more than talk about devastating issues. President Emeritus Jay Barnes saw this passion and invited him to participate in his men’s Bible study. In the midst of Minea’s business major, he took a couple multicultural classes and volunteered with Urban Homeworks—a Minneapolis nonprofit focused on remodeling real estate to serve as low-income-housing in the Twin Cities. 

After he graduated, Minea parlayed that experience into Collective Chicago. To date, the organization has provided 946 nights of safe shelter, and four out of five residents—whose ages range from 18 to 50—transition to stable housing in about six months. Minea never imagined himself here, but he believes that God’s call to more was always woven into his story. His passion for social justice, paired with his journey to Chicago and the connections he established, make Minea confident that he’s “right where [he’s] supposed to be.”

The Collective celebrated its second year anniversary November 2020, and this graphic reveals what they've accomplished so far.

The Collective celebrated its second year anniversary November 2020, and this graphic reveals what they've accomplished so far.

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