Ben Cahill

Project REACH Highlight: Creating Change to Increase Housing Opportunities in Bemidji

Isabel Margerie

In 2023, four community leaders from rural Minnesota were selected as the Project REACH (Rural Experts Advancing Community Health) cohort, a joint initiative of the University of Minnesota Rural Health Program through the Office of Academic Clinical Affairs and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

Ben Cahill, a 27-year-old from Washington State, has made the Midwest his home for the past six years. Cahill has actively engaged with the LGBTQ2S+ community in Bemidji, Minn. since 2017. In 2021, he assisted in the creation of Pride Support Network, an organization whose mission is to empower and connect LGBTQiA2S+ individuals by providing culturally relevant resources, programs, and support groups. In addition to his involvement in the LGBTQ2S+ community, Cahill works as a community health worker. In this role, he assists individuals in navigating health care and social service systems, provides health education, and helps to address community member needs by connecting them to local organizations with appropriate resources and programs. 

Through Project REACH, Cahill worked on increasing housing opportunities for individuals facing chronic health conditions in Bemidji. His policy proposal focuses on creating local ordinances to ban housing discrimination, as well as the creation of landlord risk mitigation funds. To help enact these changes, Cahill met with stakeholders from the Bemidji City Council, Bemidji City Attorney, Bemidji Housing & Redevelopment Authority, Headwaters Regional Development Corporation, Northwest Minnesota Foundation, Bi-County Community Action Programs, Sanford Health Bemidji, Sanford Health Housing, Nameless Coalition for the Homeless, Homeline MN, and Beltrami County Public Health. In addition to community stakeholders in Bemidji, Cahill met with Minnesota Representative Matt Bliss and Senator Justin Eichorn. 

“This project has helped me both as a community health worker and as an involved community member to advocate with greater confidence and efficacy for health equity and social justice. This program has not only given me knowledge, training, and experience, but has given me resources and education that I can continue to share with my community. Thank you Project REACH,“ said Cahill. 

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