Thursday, April 17, 2008

Caring and Sharing Hands and the City of Minneapolis




A Case of Harassment By the City of Minneapolis...
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I just got off the phone with Dick Copeland, after receiving an email response from the Mayor's office explaining the City's position regarding the security issues associated with Caring and Sharing Hands. I wanted to hear the other side of the story directly from the Copelands. The City claims the help center is not cooperating - which I know to be untrue - but I needed to have that confirmed for me by either Mary Jo or her husband Dick.
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It is rather obvious the City's motivation to shut down Mary Jo Copeland's emergency center for the homeless poor is because the property would be more valuable for commercial development servicing the new Twins ballpark - being constructed across the street. Although the city denies it and insists it is instead trying to work with the Copeland's to develop a security plan which would eradicate drug trafficking in the area.
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I asked Dick if they (Caring and Sharing) are refusing to work with the City - he said absolutely not - that in fact they do have security people on hand. Dick explained that Mary Jo has been doing this work for 20 years and only last year the police started coming around.
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I remember one of the first incidents. The police showed up at noon. It was during the dinner hour when they made the well publicized sting - and if I remember correctly, media just happened to come along. Supposedly a drug deal was going down right on camera - next to a security guard while Mary Jo was serving food. This pretty much coincided with the final go ahead for construction of the new ball park to take place - but I never connected the dots at that time.
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Mr. Copeland explained to me that for years they asked help from the city and police to help them move along the trouble makers amongst the street people who slept on the grassy street intersections and areas surrounding the center, but the police told the Copeland's it wasn't their problem. Then last summer the arrests happened, although there have been no arrests recently, at least in the past 4 months.
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I asked what kind of security system the City is asking of them - Dick said they want the center to check ID's of everyone who enters the facility. Wait a minute. Isn't that a violation of civil rights? Isn't this the USA? And furthermore - maybe the poor do not always have identification - and yes, they should - but maybe they don't. Can you see where this is going? The next step for the City is probably going to be calling in immigration officials to help in shutting down the facility. Do you see how government operates when revenue is involved?
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Anyway - the City "miss-speaks" - they want Mary Jo out. From what I understand they have already negotiated with the Salvation Army to limit their outreach to the poor - no more over night accommodations from what I've been told. (The Salvation Army is on the opposite side of the new stadium.)

Mayor's Office response to my earlier post:
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Jeremy Hanson, Office of Mayor R.T. Rybak Says: after publication. e-->April 17th, 2008 at 2:43 pm e
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Mayor Rybak very much values and appreciates the important work of Sharing and Caring Hands – the services they provide to Minneapolis and those in need are admirable and the last thing we want is to stand in the way of that service. That being said, when you operate a business in the City of Minneapolis, no matter what type of business, you must comply with City ordinances that relate to the management of that business, including a plan to ensure adequate security to prevent criminal activity. And the City has an obligation to ensure that licensed businesses are in compliance with these ordinances. There are a number of other facilities that serve the homeless and those with great housing needs in this area of Minneapolis. None of them have these safety issues because we are in partnership with them, and we simply want the same with Sharing and Caring Hands. We don’t want to relocate them. We want to work with them to address these issues so that the people who go there for care and support can be safe. We have been trying to work with them to protect the very needy people who come there, but we need Mary Jo’s partnership to do that. We have clear standards for public safety in Minneapolis that we expect everyone – even Sharing and Caring Hands – to meet.
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Those who are served by Sharing and Caring Hands are unique in that many users may be homeless and vulnerable because of these criminal behaviors such as drug abuse. The City can not look the other away, we have a responsibility to ensure the safety of everyone at Sharing and Caring Hands is considered, from the chronic crack cocaine user to the young single mother and her new born child.
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The security issues surrounding Mary’s place have a long history as do the City’s attempts to work in partnership with Mary Jo to address these issues. Sharing and Caring Hands has had little progress in addressing these concerns and so, once again, we have asked Mary Jo to come to the table so we can help her put together a comprehensive and achievable security plan. We are extremely hopeful that Mary Jo, with the needs of those she serves in mind, will work cooperatively with us so that we have a result that will make us all happy, the license renewal of Sharing and Caring Hands and safe place of refuge for those in need.
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Minneapolis has underway one of the most comprehensive and aggressive efforts to end homelessness in the nation, and ending homelessness will continue to be a priority for the Mayor and the city. This is why we have helped place affordable housing in downtown as well as throughout the city and will continue our efforts to end homelessness by helping people get into safe, affordable and stable housing. This year we are spending $10 million on an Affordable Housing Trust Fund. We are funding street outreach workers to help connect homeless residents to permanent services and move them into a more stable life. We are about to have our next Project Homeless Connect, in which we invite the homeless people in the community to the Convention Center to connect them to services. This is part of Heading Home Hennepin, a city and county partnership to solve long term homelessness. The city has worked very hard to address the needs of the homeless, and those who have housing challenges, and we will continue to do so – hopefully with the partnership of Sharing and Caring Hands. - End of Mayor's Office statement.
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There is a City Council meeting on April 25th and we need thousands of people to call the Mayor’s office and tell him you support Mary Jo’s work and you oppose any move to remove Mary Jo’s restaurant license. Please call today or before April 25th. The license thing is only the first step in closing down the entire facility.
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PLEASE! If you haven't done so - come to the aid of Caring and Sharing hands and make your objections known to the City of Minneapolis. Please call today or before April 25 Mayor R.T. Rybak's policy aide: Erica Prosser 612-673-2133 or erica.prosser@ci.minneapolis.mn.us

Links:
Corruption and the City of Minneapolis

1 comment:

  1. Good post, Terry. I forwarded it to "my people."

    ReplyDelete

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