The Office of Housing and Community Services “provides assistance, information and referrals to residents of Eden Prairie.” All members of the community can utilize the services of this division, including immigrants, seniors, and children. Office of Housing and Community Services helps people access programs and find the information they need to lead healthy and full lives in the community. With close to 20% of the population being people of color, many new immigrants, the office moved from the City Hall to the Eden Prairie Center to make visiting the Housing and Community Services Division less intimidating for immigrant populations. The Eden Prairie Center is more accessible for families with children and includes a computer center within the office for training, assistance, and housing and employment applications.
Office of Housing and Community Services
Eden Prairie, Minnesota
Photo credit: Jonathan Stanley of Office of Housing and Community Services
Multigenerational living is common among immigrant populations and the city of Eden Prairie now has over 24% people of color, many of whom are new immigrants. As a way to engage the immigrant senior population, the city uses city buses to transport older immigrants to the Senior Center after hours so they could experience it on their own pace. Once seniors felt comfortable in the space, they felt more confident in attending activities during regular hours, participating with fellow seniors of diverse backgrounds in woodworking, card games, trips, tours, health and wellness classes, and much more. This initiative aligns with new discourses around ageing that have redirected policy discussion from economic or welfare issues to social inclusion, and engagement (Lui, Everingham, Warburton, Cuthill, & Bartlett, 2009).
Often new immigrant populations don’t know the “unspoken rules” of suburban living. The city of Eden Prairie was receiving a plethora of angry calls from neighbors who would report that “those” people just didn’t know how to maintain their homes. To lessen these tensions, the city began to send trained personnel to new families’ homes to bridge understandings about expectations for things like lawn maintenance, garbage disposal and recycling, etc. This approach has worked rather well as indicated by the drop in “angry” phones-ins.
Eden Prairie, Minnesota
The demographic composition of Eden Prairie has changed in the past decades and people of color now comprise 23.37% of the population, versus 4.08% in 1990. As a way to reach its many constituents, the city employs a “take it to them” approach. For many years, the city has facilitated successful parenting classes providing professionally guided discussions, information, and effective parenting strategies for parents of children ages 3 – 16. Often these programs are held in the community rooms of low-income apartment complexes including Briarhill and Prairie Meadows Apartments where many immigrant populations reside. The city says this type of outreach is well attended, especially if the invitation comes from members of these communities.