MN VOICES | Mikkel Beckmen finds dignity and poetry at St. Stephen’s homeless shelter in Minneapolis

I sat down to talk with Mikkel Beckmen, executive director of St. Stephen’s Human Services, in the midst of the organization’s move to its new site at 2309 Nicollet Avenue.  Staff people bustled to get ready for the office’s big re-opening on July 5th.  Despite the myriad responsibilities his position requires, especially with a big move on the horizon, Beckmen gave the impression of being someone who always has time for people who need his help (writers included).Beckmen started working in a homeless shelter 22 years ago as a film student looking for a part-time job.  He had recently returned from working in London, and previously had been a graduate student in poetry and literature. Continue Reading

MN VOICES | From Victory Gardens to urban farming in St. Paul, Diane Dodge grows food and relationships

I meet Diane on a hot July morning and we walk together to a nearby bus stop. Diane has suggested that we attend Chalchiutlicue, an Environmental Justice Summit and Ceremony in West St. Paul, and do our interview on the bus, en route. I agree, and we are off. As the day progresses, I realize that this suggestion in many ways epitomizes Diane’s style—active, engaged in the community, and adventurous. Continue Reading

Re-Imagining Snelling Avenue: Open house seeks community input

Snelling Avenue from Selby Avenue to the State Fairgrounds is a busy regional transit route that cuts through Saint Paul’s Central Corridor lightrail construction. However, its current design doesn’t reflect the needs of its users’ many modes of transportation. On June 12, a project team including the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), Ramsey County, and the City of Saint Paul hosted an open house at Hamline University to gather community input that will inform efforts to make that portion of Snelling more accessible to everyone—cars, trucks, mass transit, cyclists, pedestrians, and people with disabilities. During the evening, a diverse group of 20-30 attendees ranging from young children to retirees, roamed the hall to talk with study representatives and give their opinions on the project.This open house is part of the first in what will be a four-stage study on how to best balance the diverse uses of Snelling Avenue.  This study will inform the project team as it considers how to re-design the corridor. This stage focuses on documenting current conditions on the road. Continue Reading

Three Issues | Grant Kvendru offers student’s perspective on economy, healthcare, student loans

Grant Kvendru is a 19 year old undergraduate studying anthropology at Hamline University. GG: So what are the most important issues to you in the upcoming election? They can be local, state, national, whatever is closest to you at this point.GK: Well definitely the economy is a big looming issue and any resolutions or solutions that would help to advance the economic situation. Probably also healthcare, looking forward, especially for the growing elderly population. And then also the student loan situation has piqued my interest for sure because (laughs) I’m a student and going to college isn’t cheap. So those are probably three issues that I would pick right off the top of my head.GG: So keep going a bit with the student loans.GK: Okay, well I’m not terribly versed on the topic. Continue Reading

Three issues | Flannery Clark: “Re-electing Obama because the alternative is terrible”

Flannery Clark works as an admissions counselor for Macalester College, and lives in St. Paul.GG: What are some of the most important issues to you in the election. They can be local, state, national, what do you consider to be most important?FC: I think there are two things that are most important to me, one is re-electing Obama because the alternative is terrible (laughs). Oh god, I don’t even know what else to say about that. And the other is defeating the marriage amendment.GG: Say more about the marrriage amendment.FC: I just think you can disagree about gay marriage, but putting discrimination in the Minnesota constitution is not what this state is about, it’s not what the US is about, it just opens us up to all kinds of stupid stuff. Continue Reading