Inadequate housing has been found to impact the health of immigrants (Fennelly, 2007). Many immigrant families tend to have a larger number of people than the typical American family and as a result, their access to rental apartment housing that can accommodate large families with four or more children is limited. The city of Hopkins is exploring ways by which housing can adapt to the changing demographics, as 20% of the city’s population now includes Blacks or African Americans, many of whom are Somalis with large families. Although developing 4-bedroom rental units was not possible in the PPL Oxford Village Project, this experience served as a lesson for how the market-driven development of housing in the US can be more responsive to the needs of the end-users. Units with three bedrooms and two bathrooms can be flexible and adjustable to diverse ways of living.
PPL Oxford Village Project
Photo credit: Laura Dunford of PPL
Phrase Books are used by city inspectors to help break down language barriers and facilitate easy communication between residents and the city. In 2016, 65.8% of Hopkins’ residents were renters. Of those renting, many were first generation immigrants. “The phrase book contains commonly used phrases in various languages and allows effective communication between a resident and the city when there are issues in inspections,” explains Mayor Cummings. “In addition to the phrase book, the city of Hopkins offers community mediation services to help with culturally sensitive problem solving between neighbors and property owners.” The phrase books help bridge often difficult gaps between residents and city staff, allowing relationship-building in a way that acknowledges immigrants as independent adults with access to information and guidance can decide for themselves which services can help them meet their goals (Sakamoto, 2007).
Previously hidden from public view and crime-prone, Cottageville Park is now integrated into the community and features a garden, trails, and recreation facilities. “The process for building that park was very unique and we did tons of community outreach,” reflects Mayor Molly Cummings, who partnered with the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and the Metropolitan Council. “We had lots of neighborhood meetings and one thing that we have found in communicating with some of our diverse population is that verbal invitation is better than putting something on your website or sending something via the mail.” Another innovative tool the city used to cultivate engagement was the use of pictures to bridge language gaps. As gardens have been viewed as unique “participatory landscapes” that connect immigrants to their cultural heritage (Saldivar-Tanaka & Krasny, 2004), the renovated park can become a gathering space for all.
In 2005, the Hopkins Chief of Police turned to the community for assistance to improve the quality of life in the Blake Road neighborhood. Although the crime rate in Hopkins is lower than Minneapolis, “There was…a disproportionate amount of crime and police calls along the [Blake Road] corridor,” remembers Mayor Molly Cummings. Residents, landlords, business owners, faith leaders, school officials, representatives from non-profit organizations, and local and county government officials formed the “Blake Road Corridor Stakeholders Group.” This group raises funds to add sidewalks, lights, garbage bins, and potted flowers on Blake Road; recreation facilities like basketball courts and soccer goal posts to Cottageville Park, and youth summer programming in city parks. As of 2010, the total number of crimes in the Blake Road area has decreased by 25% since 2006.
Food is a meaning-making activity enjoyed by all – it transcends race, ethnicity, and income to bring people together by its different tastes, aromas, and ingredients. Cooking with Friends is a program that occurs every few months at Hopkins’ Eisenhower Elementary School. “It’s a partnership with the BRCC (Blake Road Corridor Collaborative) and so anyone who wants comes, and they generally plan a meal…from…various cultures and they bring their recipes and the BRCC purchases all the ingredients and it’s great,” elaborates Mayor Cummings. “It’s a great opportunity to cook and visit and everyone gets involved.” The city hopes that Cottageville Park’s community garden can help expand the Cooking with Friends program to different neighborhoods across the city, instilling the benefits of better nutrition and increased exercise to all residents (Wakefield, Yeudall, Taron, Reynolds, & Skinner, 2007).
In November of 1997, the Hopkins Center for the Arts opened and quickly became a central gathering place. Located in the heart of Mainstreet and between two community parks, the center’s mission is to “build community through the arts by fostering creative expression, and providing artistic and educational opportunities for people of all ages, as well as to be an important focal point for community activity, pride and involvement.” The Center hosts performances, exhibitions, adult community education classes, along with providing rentable space to businesses and families. The flexibility of the spaces supports a wide-range of events, making it attractive to the city’s diverse population. Events the center has held include: first birthday celebrations for Indian families, Quinceanera parties for Hispanic community members, and the Somali Museum of Minnesota’s 2nd anniversary party.
Established in 2005, the Joint Community Police Partnership (JCPP) is an “an award-winning, collaborative effort between Hennepin County and the cities of Bloomington, Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, Crystal, Hopkins, and Richfield.” Their mission is to enhance communication and understanding between law enforcement and multicultural residents of these cities. Since 2012, the crime rates in Hopkins have decreased by 19.2%. Multi-cultural training for police officers and hiring a multicultural liaison who is sensitive to the needs of the city’s diverse population are just two of the four program strategies that have aided Hopkins in achieving this goal. Also instrumental to the program’s success is community engagement, by getting police officers out of their vehicles and into the community, police can form relationships and build trust with members of the community.
Joint Community Police Partnership
Photo credit: Julia Ross of Hopkins Police Department
Hopkins holds informal discussions in places other than City Hall such as parks, apartment developments, breweries, and even in the street (the Artery Experiment). Invitations to these meetings are often done face-to-face and the goal is to gain greater community input on various issues surrounding housing and neighborhoods. “We had lots and lots of neighborhood meetings and one thing that we have found in communicating with some of our diverse population is that verbal invitation to participate is better than putting something on your website or sending something via the mail,” reflects Mayor Cummings. The city uses cell phone contact information to call residents and remind them to come to the event. To increase participation, interpreters are hired, and child care, food, as well as transportation are provided.
Close to 38.4% of the Hopkins Community is made up of people of color and an estimated 34 different languages are spoken throughout the City. In 2008, Hopkins Police Department formed the Multicultural Advisory Committee (MAC) that is comprised of community members from various cultural groups as a way to bridge relationships between the community and police. The group engages in dialogues with the police department and other city departments about concerns in their communities, as they also serve as ambassadors who relay city government decision-making practices. Our diverse population “is one of the greatest things about the city of Hopkins,” noted Mayor Molly Cummings. These dialogues occur in places of worship, markets, parks, community centers, and on the sidewalk, which points to the critical role of outreach in building relationships and strengthening the community.
Multicultural Advisory Committee
Photo credit: Julia Ross of Hopkins Police Department