The old adage is apt because it's true: it does take a village to care for our youth and seniors, our sick and struggling. The same is certainly true for the unsheltered people at the Franklin Hiawatha encampment. Although Natives Against Heroin has maintained a very visible, daily presence at the camp, there are many people working behind the scenes to contribute to the camp and its residents in ways both big and small.
Within the Native community many have stepped up to do what they can, including some of the agencies represented by the Metro Urban Indian Directors group (MUID). MUID is responsible for creating this website, which acts as a portal for people to donate goods, volunteer their time, or make a cash contributions to a variety of organizations providing services to the camp and community. It also serves as an information source for the public via this blog and the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page.
One of the first people to step up back in mid-August was Dr. Antony Stately, director of the Native American Community Clinic. Dr. Stately learned of the camp and visited with his two sons, who each brought clothes and toys to donate to a young boy who was living there at the time. As a health professional, he realized that conditions at the encampment could have public health ramifications, and it was Dr. Stately who initiated the meeting between Native leaders and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey - not the other way around as is widely (mis)understood. Dr Stately also worked tirelessly for weeks to work around regulations and red tape and bring much needed medical services to the encampment.
Dr Stately, rear left, with his sons and others at the encampment August 19 2018, the last night of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Wacipi.
Stately, family and friends brought donated food from the powwow vendors to provide a meal for residents at the camp.
Patina Park and the Minnesota Indian Women's Resource Center (MIWRC) were also quick to recognize the needs of the camp. Park, the current chair of MUID, oversaw the creation of the website and has since worked with her staff and volunteers to oversee coordination of meal service, the collection, storage, sorting and distribution of donations, coordination of volunteers for camp clean ups, and much more. Her agency, MIWRC, has outreach workers that regularly visit the camp helping to connect camp residents to housing and other services. She has also played a crucial role in educating stakeholders about homelessness and other challenges within the Native community, as well as providing guidance for interested parties to engage and provide assistance in culturally appropriate ways.
The American Indian Community Development Corporation (AICDC), led by Mike Goze, is directly across the street from the encampment. It was Goze's idea to use the green space in front of his buildings for a 'hygiene and service area' (HSA). A mobile unit with three small bathrooms complete with showers, stools and sinks, allow residents a nearby space to take care of hygiene needs. Next to the mobile showers a large red and white tent is filled with conference tables and chairs where service providers and public agencies table and meet with residents one-on-one to assist with housing, chemical dependency, and mental health services. AICDC has also been providing 120 bag lunches every day at the camp.
The mobile shower unit at AICDC.
The Native American Community Development Institute (NACDI) is also within shouting distance of the encampment. NACDI President and CEO Robert Lilligren, is a former Minneapolis City Council member. Lilligren has used his knowledge of the inner working of government and connections within the community to help create conversation and consensus between stakeholders and bridge the sometimes difficult relationships between the Native Community and the City and its agencies.
The Minneapolis American Indian Center is right next door to AICDC. The Center has provided meeting space for a variety of gatherings related to the camp. The Gatherings Cafe, located within the Minneapolis American Indian Center, provides vouchers for a number of camp residents to have breakfast or lunch at the cafe daily. The Center is also under consideration as a safe shelter for camp residents in the case of severe winter weather.
Murals on the side of the Minneapolis American Indian Center.
Division of Indian (DIW) work has provided space where donated clothes have been sorted and shelved to create a shopping experience for residents of the encampment. DIW vans transport residents from the camp to select the clothes, coats and other items that fit their needs.
The staff that sorts donations and arranges items by type and size at the Division of Indian Work.
Lastly, although not Native-led or a member of MUID, Gichitwaa Kateri Catholic Church and its pastor, Shawn Phillips, were early on the scene and have provided steadfast support of the encampment, including providing storage for donations and and donating a large winter tent to serve as a warming house at the camp.
Donated food, neatly arranged, at Gichitwaa Kateri Catholic Church.
In addition to the work and contributions mentioned above MUID has also engaged the philanthropic community as well as the public sector and service providers. MUID recently collaborated with the Minneapolis Foundation to host a meeting to educate members of the Foundation community about how best to support not just the existing encampment, but also long term planning and more effective and culturally sensitive solutions.
This story captures just some of the MUID member groups who have offered their time, staff and other resources to the encampment. There is a long and growing list of agencies, companies, foundations and individuals whose generosity and compassionate spirit have made a difference at the camp. To every volunteer, every group that has brought a meal, and to all that have donated tents, tarps, clothes, wood and so much more - thank you! Wopila! Chi Miigwech!
Posted by Camille