Storm response brings opportunities for solidarity

| Kathy Tomlin | June 8, 2011 | 0 Comments

North Minneapolis is a resilient community despite the many times it finds itself in the middle of a storm’s eye. A number of different storms have plagued the area over the years, some of them simultaneously. It has seen more than its fair share of poverty, gang violence, joblessness and racial exclusion.

No doubt, this most recent violent storm caused some to throw up their hands in desperation and ask God how one more trial could be sent to this community. But there is also a steady faith at work in north Minneapolis — a faith that brings people together in a spirit of solidarity.

There are a lot of wonderful people in north Minneapolis, bringing faith communities, business organizations and community groups together in a renewed effort to make the community more vital.

Seizing the opportunity

When our television and social media inform us with breakneck speed, the response from people near and far can be practically instantaneous. The outpouring of helping hands and hearts from people outside of this community is adding great value and material to the clean-up effort.

But we also know that once the immediate basic needs are attended to, the community will be working for a long time to rebuild its homes and provide for its families.

This could be the end of our engagement in the area: tornado in, people respond, we move on to the next crisis. It could also be an opportunity for more of us to understand the many other storms that require solutions that would allow the residents of North Minneapolis to tap the untapped assets of the community, making it more whole and vital.

Job training, economic development, community services and public policies that move toward eradicating poverty would go a long way toward reversing the downward spiral that some of our urban centers are in.

The resulting home damage from this storm is requiring yet another urgency for the city of Minneapolis and Hennepin County, which have been working together tirelessly to put an end to homelessness. Unfortunately, and contrary to these efforts, the Minnesota Legislature seems to be joining Mother Nature in creating more obstacles rather than easing the burdens.

The budget proposals, vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton, would have made things much worse in many communities, including north Minneapolis. Cuts to health care, the renter’s credit, transit, child care, income supports, education and training would have weakened many communities, increasing the number of people at risk.

Some suggest that we can’t afford to fund these programs at the level of need any longer. And yet, just three years ago, there was bi-partisan agreement that if Minnesota put its mind to it, we could end poverty in this state by 2020. (See the final report of the Legislative Commission to End Poverty at http://www.commissions.leg.state.mn.us/lcep/.)

Examining deeper questions

The naysayers in our churches and community who believe that this effort to end poverty is a ridiculously impossible notion often quote Scripture, saying, “The poor you will always have with you.” Surely, Jesus wasn’t making a recommendation that absolves the rest of us from our responsibility to have a special concern for the vulnerable and those lacking the basics.

It is my hope that the events in north Minneapolis give the larger community pause to examine the deeper questions about how our communities are or are not working.

Kathy Tomlin is director of the Office for Social Justice of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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Category: Faith and Justice