Midtown Community Works is a public-private partnership formed to guide the redevelopment of the Midtown Greenway-Lake Street corridor in south Minneapolis. The goals are to enhance how communities in the corridor work together to create economic vitality and build long-term value by investing in greenspace as well as infrastructure and other public works. Key to these projects are deep engagement with the community, which includes many Latino, Somali, and Native members. Patricia Fitzgerald, Manager of Community and Economic Development with Hennepin County reflects on the process for the Midtown Community Works Connection Study, “We had focus groups and specific cultural communities along the corridor and we had facilitators within the communities to do that work with us and we also did some engagement activities that brought out a really nice, diverse age range and cultural range to participate in activities to envision [the] future.”

Midtown Community Works

Hennepin County, Minnesota

Youth homelessness is a growing problem in Minnesota as an estimated 6,000 youth experience homelessness on any given night. Brooklyn Park’s Mayor Lunde reflects that, “there’s all of these holes for kids to fall in and so, with the support of the faith community, we built the first [teen] homeless shelter in the suburbs.” Opened in 2015, Brooklyn Avenues offers a 12-bed short-term housing program for homeless youth ages 16 to 21, “a safe and home-like place to stabilize, address their crisis needs, begin healing from their trauma and start addressing long-term goals.” Following the premise that shelters should be part of a strategy that engages people and the community in addressing homelessness (Culhane,Metraux, & Byrne, 2011), the program provides safe transitional housing with intensive support services, while allowing the youth to stay within or close to their home community.

Brooklyn Avenues

Brooklyn Park, Minnesota

Photo credit: Rachel Blair from Avenues for Homeless Youth

Wood Lake was once a recreational lake, surrounded by homes, but in 1969, Richfield’s City Council approved the conversion of Wood Lake into a nature center. One of the first urban nature centers in the U.S., Wood Lake Nature Center features wetlands, walking paths, and an interpretive center. Bird monitoring programs that integrate conservation, ecological research, environmental education, capacity-building, and income generation have been found to be cost-effective tools in achieving the goals of community-based biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction in the developing world (Şekercioğlu, 2012). With Richfield’s median annual income being less than the US average, access to the park by K-6 Richfield Public School students, who visit three times a year, promotes environmental justice and stewardship in the community. This partnership is made possible by the annual Urban Wildland Half Marathon & 5K.

Environmental Education

Richfield, Minnesota

Photo credit: http://www.richfieldmn.gov/around-town/wood-lake-nature-center

Mission 21 is an “anti-trafficking service provider committed to the complete restoration of child victims of sex trafficking.” A November 2010 study found that each month in Minnesota, at least 213 girls are sold for sex an average of five times per day through the Internet and escort services. The average age of victims is 12-14 years old and many suffer from physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual abuse. Mission 21 has been working tirelessly to provide services like food, clothing, and emergency medical services to children and women up to age 21 who are caught in trafficking.. Mayor Ardell Brede says, “You know, probably 90% of the people…here in town have no clue that [trafficking] is going on here, but it happens.” The city’s commitment to helping youth transition out of trafficking is an example of communities in which everyone can thrive.

Mission 21

Rochester, Minnesota

Photo credit: Shawnna Seaquist of Mission21

“We Want You Back” is a partnership between Rochester Public Schools and the United Way of Olmsted County to re-engage students who have dropped-out and encourage them to come back to school. According to Minnesota Department of Education 2017 data, students of color graduate at a rate of 69 percent compared to 88 percent for White students. When Superintendent Michael Muñoz noticed in 2012 that almost 300 students have not finished the year, he decided to hit the streets. Volunteer community members and teachers show up at students’ doors and talk about the importance of education. “That’s been effective and it continues because sometimes people, either the parents are both working, or whatever and the kid just stays at home or feels that nobody really cares…‘I won’t be missed,’” says Mayor Brede who is also a volunteer for the program.

“We Want You Back”

Rochester, Minnesota

Photo credit: John Danilenko-Dixon from Rochester Public Schools