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Saturday May 28th 2022

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Phillips Community Listening Session Focused on Encampments

By JANA METGE, JAMES TRICE and DONNA PUSUSTA NESTE On March 30, a meeting entitled “A Listening Session About Encampments in Phillips and Minneapolis” organized by a Phillips Neighborhood group calling themselves Phillips Neighborhood Safety Coalition took place at the East Phillips Park Community and Cultural Center. Facilitator James Trice, a resident of Phillips for 25 years, welcomed all and went over the ground rules for a respectful meeting, which it was. 78 people signed in, however there were an estimated 100 in attendance. AIM Patrol members mingled with the crowd to let everyone know they were welcome and that their presence was important. Attendees were invited to add printed materials to an information table in which various perspectives were represented, from a harm reduction model for safe injection sites to a draft on policy and procedure for encampments. Five community members gave testimony on their experiences with encampments. Mike Forcia, a leader in the AIM Patrol, spoke on healing the Native community and the Dakota land we are on, and on the need for jobs, culturally specific programs for youth, as well as culturally specific treatment centers for addiction, mental health, and historical trauma. He said that we can build a hundred little houses, but his people won’t leave the camps unless their opioid addictions are addressed. Joani Essenburg, resident of Phillips and founder of Banyan Youth Center, related how her anger was initially focused upon those living in encampments, but changed into frustration with the government’s lack of response. She spoke of the need for the government not to ignore what is happening and instead provide for encampment residents’ basic needs. Desmond McCloud, a youth and former resident of the Near North camp, spoke of his struggle with addiction and the need for dignified housing which is safe, healthy, and provides support services for those struggling to get clean. Kent Bakken, a [...]

Do Whatever You Want

Do Whatever You Want

Peace House Community By MARTI MALTBY When people find out that I have worked with the homeless, they sometimes ask me if they should give money to panhandlers. I used to give the standard social work answer: “If you give them money, it could be used for drugs or alcohol. It’s better to give them a snack, or to donate money to agencies that help the homeless.” Eventually I realized how insulting and hypocritical that answer was. It’s insulting because it reinforces the stereotype that people are homeless because they use drugs and alcohol, or that all the homeless use drugs and alcohol. It also implies that they don’t know any better than to blow their money on things that won’t improve their situation. And this coming from social workers who say we’re trying to reduce the stigma of homelessness, and that we care for the people we “serve”. It’s also hypocritical because it implies that the homeless shouldn’t drink, even though it’s okay for others. If you have dinner at my house, I’m likely to offer you wine or beer with the meal. Not only am I removing any doubt about whether the money will be used for alcohol, I’m actively promoting the consumption of “spirits”. Heaven forbid someone who is homeless touch alcohol, though. These days, when I’m asked about giving out money, I just say “Do whatever you want.” I don’t mean to sound flippant when I say this (okay, yes, I do), but I want to recognize that there is no one answer that will fit each situation. If someone feels strongly that they should not hand out money, I have no objection. I just ask that they say “no” respectfully and without derision. If they want to offer the person a snack or some socks instead, wonderful. But if someone decides to give money to a panhandler, trusting that they will use it to buy themselves food or to get on a bus, I won’t criticize them. They are being generous and showing faith in another person’s goodness and [...]

We Are Not Trash, Stop Sweeping Us!

We Are Not Trash, Stop Sweeping Us!

By SOUTHSIDE HARM REDUCTION SERVICES This last month the Minneapolis Police evicted another encampment of people experiencing houselessness in East Phillips. This is the third time in the past few months that this group has been moved. This eviction was especially violent. About 40 police arrived to forcibly evict roughly 30 residents with no place for residents to move. The police barricaded the area surrounding the camp and forced almost all the community outreach workers out of the camp, searching for people with active warrants and telling residents they had 5 minutes to pack everything and leave. During this eviction, a resident of the encampment experienced an overdose. The police (all of whom are supposed to be carrying naloxone) did not respond. Instead, they continued to stand around and force people to leave the encampment. Fortunately, a fellow resident responded to the emergency by administering naloxone, and the person experiencing the overdose survived, exclusively because of this community response.  These evictions are violent, and they cause immediate and long-term health crises. They prevent people from making progress in finding housing and in achieving health goals. They cause people to lose their tents, identification documents, personal belongings, medication, harm reduction supplies, and naloxone. They also cause disruption of important relationships with friends and family, as well as healthcare and social service providers. These connections are as valuable to people”™s health as physical supplies. As one resident put it, “Every time we are evicted, we start back at square 1, we could be at square 450 and then immediately back to square 1.”  Encampment evictions are happening in the midst of multiple outbreaks, including HIV, Hep A, and alongside record high numbers of overdose deaths. These evictions and health crises disproportionately affect Indigenous people and people of color, and we cannot [...]

Midtown Phillips Neighborhood News

Midtown Phillips Neighborhood News

A Golden Age, or Fool’s Gold?

Peace House Community: A Place to Belong By MARTI MALTBY I try to find positive things to talk about in this space, but I also want to make sure the voices of the homeless and others who come to Peace House Community are heard. Those two goals sometimes conflict, as homelessness and hopelessness often go together, especially in Minnesota in February. The optimist in me sees how much resilience and creativity people have shown in the face of the covid pandemic. I admire and appreciate how these folks have found ways to carry on and even to thrive in adversity. I find hope in people”™s refusal to give up, and I am reminded of Saint Augustine”™s comment, “This awful catastrophe is not the end but the beginning. History does not end so. It is the way its chapters open.” (I have no idea which particular catastrophe Augustine had in mind, but neither it nor any of the catastrophes since have ended history.) But when I read Augustine”™s words, I want to ask him, “The beginning of what? What is going to be written in the chapters we are opening?” Over the centuries many people have made wonderful comments about the golden age that is just over the horizon, and about the inevitable paradise that will result from human progress. Here are just a few samples: “Where children are, there is the golden age.” ”“ Novalis “The golden age has not passed; it lies in the future.” - Paul Signac “The 21st century has more potential than perhaps any other in our brief evolutionary history. We stand on the cusp of computing, genetic and energy generation breakthroughs that were only recently in the realm of science-fiction. A golden age of humanity is tantalisingly within our grasp.” - Clive Lewis And yet every golden age has had its share of throw-away people who have to fight just to live on the fringes of society. The maxim that a rising tide lifts all boats ignores [...]

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