Update from the Mayor – September 8, 2005
September 8, 2005
Minneapolis Prepares for Long-Term Hurricane Relief
A Call for "Sustained Compassion" Connecting Schools, Housing and Jobs
Yesterday I met with Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Thandiwe Peebles to discuss the City’s plans to work with civic, business and faith leaders to coordinate the long-term resettlement of Gulf Coast evacuees. Efforts will include connecting hurricane survivors to schools, housing and jobs in Minneapolis. As the largest city in Minnesota, Minneapolis is playing a critical role in local relief and resettlement efforts related to Hurricane Katrina. We are seeing evidence everywhere of an influx of people coming to Minneapolis. They are not all coming through traditional, orderly channels as some predicted, but they are coming and we need to have a coordinated response.
Responding to the Gulf Coast disaster will be a long-term commitment that requires sustained compassion. The people of Minneapolis must prepare for and commit themselves to continued support for those affected by this catastrophe. While many in the state are focused on the important immediate short-term needs, we are taking a longer-term view and approach. Our success responding to this emergency situation will be measured in weeks and months, not hours or days.
This long-term approach requires a coordinated effort connecting schools, housing and jobs for those affected by the hurricane disaster. Because we cannot divert or take away resources needed by those already in our community, we need broader open arms to effectively support these new residents coming to our community.
Superintendent Peebles and I discussed the unique qualifications of the Minneapolis public schools to accept students from the Gulf Coast. She noted that, "In our district we have experience working with cultural and bilingual diversity that reflects the communities in New Orleans. Our teachers are used to opening their arms to newcomers. We have programs that are familiar with helping families that have been displaced for one reason or another."
Superintendent Peebles told me that the school district plans to support a smooth integration into the community by connecting evacuees to all Minneapolis public schools rather than separating survivors into one school or area. They have simplified school registration for a seamless transition process and ensured access to early childhood and childcare programs for families with young children.
Minneapolis Public Schools has established a hotline at 612-668-1840 for families with children interested in attending city schools.
There is an activated network of housing providers connecting local, regional, state and federal resources to coordinate access to housing in Minneapolis. The city is working with the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority to connect eligible people with public housing and is working with Housing Link and the United Way to connect vacant housing resources to people who need housing. I have Elizabeth Ryan, the City of Minneapolis’ housing director, helping to coordinate these efforts.
If you or someone you know wants to volunteer to house evacuees they should call HousingLink to be added to the state-wide roster of available housing options.
HousingLink can be reached at 612-520-9233, or by e-mailing them at email@example.com
I have Mike Christensen, the city’s Economic Development Director working with our 10 non-profit employment training partners in our Neighborhood Employment Network ready to serve, if federal resources need to expand the program beyond its current scope. We have a model that works and has proven that we can put thousands of people to work in the City of Minneapolis.
On Tuesday, I hosted a meeting of more than 60 community leaders addressing various aspects of the hurricane relief and resettlement effort to improve awareness and coordination of resources. I announced then that I intend to create a new, temporary city position to coordinate ongoing hurricane relief and resettlement efforts in the City of Minneapolis.
I am proud of the community-based efforts already underway to help hurricane survivors settle in Minneapolis. I am especially pleased by the leadership of the African American community and faith communities providing culturally sensitive compassion and support at this time of need. Along with a number of faith congregations, last week I created a Minneapolis Relief Fund at the Minneapolis Foundation. People can now contribute to the Minneapolis Relief Fund with a credit card online at the Minneapolis Foundation. Just go to www.minneapolisfoundation.org and click on the Disaster Relief "Contribute" button.
Offers of Support & Housing Opportunities - People offering general support (goods, money, volunteers, etc.) should call 211, the United Way helpline. 211 cannot be reached by cell phones or in some parts of the state. Areas without 211 service and those with cell phones can call (651) 291-0211 or (800) 543-7709.
Connecting Evacuees with State and Federal Services - Regardless of how people arrive in Minnesota, they need to register in order to be eligible for state and federal services and benefits. This involves two phone calls: one to the SEOC Hotline (651) 297-1304 or (800) 657-3504; and one to the FEMA Tele-Registration Line (800) 621-3362. The SEOC Hotline needs to know how many people are arriving with any particular group and whether or not they will need emergency housing at Camp Ripley, and the earlier they get this information the better. But even when local organizations or individuals provide housing for people, they still need to register with both the SEOC and FEMA to be eligible for services and benefits. Next week, the SEOC will be setting up a State Assistance Center to ensure that people who are not received at Camp Ripley also have access to the same state and federal services and benefits as those who are.
I want to thank the City staff and all the residents of Minneapolis who have expressed a willingness to provide assistance for our fellow Americans from Louisiana and Mississippi where needed. I’m proud of this city and know we will do what we can to make those coming to Minneapolis feel welcomed and safe.
Published Sep. 8, 2005