The May 22nd tornadoes have tested many residents of North Minneapolis. Fortunately, in this time of need, various organizations, public officials and neighbors, have come together to assist those most affected.
Farview Park, located at 621 29th Ave N, has been one of the main locations for assisting victims with food, hygiene products, and water. This is also where the Hawthorne Huddle meetings take place every first Thursday of the month from 7:30am to 8:45am.
June 2, 2011
“We are here to share information and keep the General Mills Foundation grounded in what is happening in the community; especially at this time given all that’s happened in terms of damage,” stated Ellen Luger, Executive Director of the General Mills Foundation (GMF), and mediator for the Hawthorne Huddle.
Each meeting consists of a different group of guests, such as public office members, non-profit organizations and local businesses. “Long term partnerships will help the long term rebuilding effort,” Luger said.
These long-term partnerships include, but are not limited to; Mayor R.T. Rybak, East Gateway, General Mills, Greater Twin Cities United Way, Diane Hofstede, Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis and MAD DADS.
One of the concerns addressed by Inspector Mike Martin, Commander of 4th Precinct, was the increase of burglaries. “This last week our safety issues have changed dramatically,” Martin said. “This week we had a really good week in crime other than burglaries. Part of that issue is we have literally hundreds of homes that were damaged by the storm; people had items stolen from their homes and garages that were not secure,” he said. These items according to Martin were air conditioners from apartments and businesses.
Despite this one area of increased activity, other crime has decreased. “Crime is down 21% on the North side this last week, in addition to a double digit decline the last few years,” Martin said.
Another concern was the livability and safety concerns of residence having nowhere to go. “People were upset because they were asked to leave their apartments,” Martin said. It was not structurally sound and they did not want to leave. However, with help of MADDADS, they assisted with arrangements for moving back in and bringing the necessary belongings.”
Insurance Fraud was a frequent inquiry at the meeting, with the numerous fly by night scam artists viewing the tornado as opportunity for quick and easy money. “That is something that we are tracking,” Martin said. “Insurance fraud is a crime that takes a lot of work and time to prove.”
Mayor R.T. Rybak addressed four issues, which have had deep affects on North Minneapolis that are even more severe now due to the tornado disaster, including; basic human needs, housing and shelter, employment and insurance. These efforts included getting people connected with services through shuttle busses to resources and non-profits to provide victims with these services.
Rybak states that food is a basic need and should be distributed among neighbors to provide the resource. “When you take an entire part of the city that did not have a whole lot to begin with, we need people to step up ’cause we will continue to have these issues,” Rybak said. “We really need people to step up, neighbor to neighbor, person to person, and know that people are short of food and hungry,” he said.
Housing is another essential need Rybak addressed. “About an hour after the crisis hit, we had a city county team working on housing. Many have been moved one by one through individual triage into ongoing shelters, temporary housing, and vouchers to move people to different places. A lot of people are living in inadequate housing,” he said.
Louis King of Summit Academy OIC addressed the problem of housing as well, which includes repair to homes still livable but damaged. “A concern is patch and repair,” King said. “A little hole in the ceiling today, if you do not get it done, water comes in, then we have a homeless family at that point,” he said. “Some homeowners are uninsured, so the philanthropic community has stepped up and provided a fund for homeowners.”
The third issue was employment. “There was a huge issue with employment here before, there is an even bigger one now,” Rybak said. “We are working with youth and adult employment. We won’t be able to do a massive program that this area needs, but that is an area we will be spending a lot of time on.”
King also stated the importance of providing opportunities to minority businesses to flow economy right here in North Minneapolis, where it is most needed. “A core value of this effort is that, the economic exchange that will occur because the rebuilding will remain in this community. We are working to make sure our folks understand we have people right here, and they do not have to depend on storm chasers to come in and do the work for them,” King said.
Insurance was the final issue addressed by Rybak. The Home Owner’s Center, which addresses this issue, is located at Hamilton Elementary School at 4119 Dupont Ave N. “There are people facing some complicated issues with homeowners. It will be a place where people can learn more about insurance and contracting,” he said.
In an area that has the heaviest cluster of foreclosures in the city of Minneapolis, the tornado created more of a crisis with housing in the area.
“Northside was cut in half by the tornado. This community was devastated by foreclosures, now we have a tornado-devastation,” said Commissioner Mark Stenglein. “We are not going to let this community splinter and scatter around. Through adversity comes strength; it’s a cliché thing to say but it’s true.”
The General Mills Foundation will be investing $125,000 and at least 1,000 employees’ volunteer hours over the course of the next 12 months to assist in the rebuilding of North Minneapolis. Of the $125,000 in grants, $25,000 has already been directed to the Twin Cities chapter of the Red Cross. GMF plans to announce the specific gifts and timing of the additional $100,000 in grants at an upcoming Hawthorne Huddle meeting.