On the morning of Wednesday, April 15th, a fire completely destroyed a row of apartments and storefronts on West Broadway. Approximately 30 persons residing in 11 households were displaced by the fire, with several stores and offices destroyed. This event was indeed a tragedy, but the swift response from neighbors affirms some of the values central to the Northside: collaboration, resilience, and community.
The Northside community, along with disaster relief organizations on the ground, quickly came together to support neighbors in need. The group – consisting of EMERGE, the American Red Cross- Minnesota Region, MN Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, and a group of resourceful Northside residents (Northside Reponse Team) – immediately began providing assistance and coordination to impacted residents and organizations. On the day of the fire, EMERGE mobilized its vans to provide transportation to and from the designated Red Cross shelter housed at Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church in Northeast; Minnesota Neighborhoods Organizing for Change set up an online fundraiser even while their own offices were on fire; and the Northside Response Team began organizing drives for clothing, household goods, and other needed donations. In addition, West Broadway Business Coalition and Northside Economic Opportunity Network assisted impacted business owners, including connecting them to pro-bono legal services.
This same group of organizations and Northsiders coordinated with victims, local government, and other relief organizations to provide relief via a Resource Fair held onsite at EMERGE on April 17th, where residents were connected to the Red Cross, Salvation Army, EMERGE, Hennepin County Emergency Assistance and Shelter Services, and local donation drives. The following day, the newly-opened EMERGE Career & Technology Center opened its doors to provide daytime Red Cross shelter for impacted residents in the neighborhood over the weekend.
Says Paul Schulz, Vice President of Business Development and Enterprise Operations at EMERGE, “While a few of the displaced families were EMERGE participants, they were all our neighbors. We knew that the sooner we connected with other groups providing relief, the better the outcome for all involved in quickly distributing available aid to impacted residents. The commonality bringing all involved organizations together is a mission that’s responsive to community needs.”
On Wednesday, April 22nd, exactly one week after the fire, community partners hosted a second event onsite at EMERGE where MN Neighborhoods Organizing for Change distributed $22,000 in resident relief funds raised through their successful online fundraiser. Since then, in addition to ongoing services provided by disaster relief organizations, EMERGE has dedicated staff to continue providing housing counseling and referral (including connecting a displaced family to their own housing program), tenant advocacy, and transportation supports.
While the property lost cannot be replaced, the collaboration of numerous people and organizations is commendable. Despite setbacks, this type of civic-minded unification is what keeps North Minneapolis vibrant and thriving.