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 Park, Minnesota
Photo credit: Rachel Blair from Avenues for Homeless Youth
Rec on the Go is a mobile recreational activities program that offers crafts, games, literacy projects, science experiences, and snacks for children and teens in low-income areas of Brooklyn Park. The summer programming schedule typically runs four days a week from mid-June to mid-August in many locations across the city, from parks to apartment complexes. The program was created to increase access to parks and recreational facilities. A national study found that children living closer to recreational programs and parks had much lower rates of obesity than children who lived further away. However, the study also found that low-income neighborhoods and communities of color have fewer parks and recreational facilities than more affluent, white neighborhoods (Wen, Zhang, Harris, Holt, & Croft, 2013). Rec on the Go bridges this divide, providing opportunities for youth to learn and engage.
The City of Brooklyn Park is intentional in sharing resources. The city pairs its plethora of work spaces with cultural clusters that serve the community’s needs, helping build social capital and a collective identity that enhances involvement and economic development (Grodach & Loukaitou-Sideris, 2007; Stern & Seifert, 2010). If a local group needs a meeting room, an after-school project needs a play space, or a community get-together needs a reception hall, the city does its best to accommodate their needs with city space, such as the City Hall. “We…use our strengths, which is facilities, as a way to offer non-monetary support” to community groups and residents, says Mayor Lunde. This simple act of sharing space helps support the well-being of residents by accommodating the diverse ways residents in Brooklyn Park socialize, work, recreate, and exercise.
Intelligent policing is about getting out of the police station and the car, engaging the community and finding community champions. Such interactions have been noted to build trust and enhance youth violence prevention strategies (Brunson, Braga, Hureau, & Pegram, 2015; Cherney, 2018). As Brooklyn Park’s crime levels are higher than the state, the police are encouraged to get to know the communities in a meaningful way, not just when there is a problem. “We expect our officers,…..to not to drive around,” says Mayor Lunde. “Stop… say hi to someone, get out of the car, [and] meet.” The Brooklyn Park Police Department has also started to use visual cards to explain code violations when language barriers are present. “We’re using pictures as a way to communicate, cause that’s cross-cultural,” reflects Mayor Lunde. “People see a picture, they can understand what those things are.”
As a way to strengthen neighborhood identity, Mayor Lunde notes that in Brooklyn Park, “We actually had the neighborhoods identify their own selves – what they wanted to be called.” The Brooklyn Park city map was divided into 31 neighborhoods and over the course of five months, 650 residents participated in the naming process. It was an exercise in pride-building. “It helps to form our identity,” says Brooklyn Park resident Kristi Corey, while also bringing old and new neighbors together. Neighborhood names are inspired by local parks, the Mississippi River, and historic figures and were decided at neighbors’ mailboxes, community dinners, and city-led community cafes. This initiative helps form meaning-making communities by bringing residents of a small geographic area together to celebrate the diverse history, character, and demographics that makes their neighborhood special.
Brooklyn Park, Minnesota
Brooklyn Park has a sizable amount of undeveloped land that they using to recruit global companies who are looking to relocate or expand. “Locating [in] a place that is used to having diversity means it makes it easier for [businesses] to recruit people from other countries because [when workers] get here, it’s more likely they’re going to feel more welcome or not feel out of place, cause you walk around our streets that, you know, diversity is everywhere,” reflects Mayor Lunde. In 2013, Medical device manufacturer Olympus Surgical Technologies announced Brooklyn Park as the site of a new manufacturing and research and development facility. The city has positioned itself as a welcoming enclave for diverse business, receptive and inclusive of varying needs, opinions, and ideas for developing their community as a destination for diversity.
Recruit Global Talent
Brooklyn Park, Minnesota
Photo credit: Loucks
In 2009, Zanewood Recreation Center began offering after-school recreation, homework, and development programs for youth in the community. Since then, crime has rapidly dropped. In 2008, there were 1,158 serious and misdemeanor offenses involving juveniles as suspects or victims. In 2013, there were only 634, said Police Commander Mark Bruley. “As we invested, we saw involvement go up and we saw crime go down,” said Mayor Jeff Lunde. Located in a residential neighborhood with both single-family and multifamily housing and adjacent to the Zanewood Community School, Zanewood Recreation Center acts as a basecamp for youth, offering a safe and positive environment to gather, swim, dance, play, and study throughout the school year and during the summer. The community comes together to provide outreach, community service, youth mentoring, and employment opportunities for youth in the area.
Zanewood Recreation Center
Brooklyn Park, Minnesota
Photo credit: City 3
Brooklyn Park experienced high crime rates in the late 2000s, but with the creation of the The Brooklyn Bridge Alliance for Youth and the Zanewood Recreation Center, the city is experiencing all time lows. “And we’re three times as diverse,” says Mayor Lunde, so the notion that “diversity causes crime, it’s simply factually incorrect.” The Alliance coordinates action-based teams with staff from schools, cities, county and community colleges to change policies, develop new action, and work together to build resources. A focus of the organization is to prepare youth for positions of leadership for personal and community vitality through opportunities like Motivation Youth Festival, Youth in City Government Day, and Brooklyns Youth Council. Located near the City Hall, Library, and Shingle Creek Regional Trail, a popular pedestrian and bicycle corridor, the Brooklyn Bridge Alliance for Youth is knit into the community fabric.