A Hopeful Sign

Like many people in this part of Minneapolis, I am continually reminded of the challenges facing our neighborhoods. High crime rates, limited resources, livability crimes, drug use…. you know the list as well as I do.

Aside from my personal observations, I hear about the challenges the members at Peace House Community deal with every day. I also attend meetings hosted by the Metro Indian Urban Directors, which focus on the effects that the homelessness and opioid epidemics have on the Native American community, and efforts to combat those epidemics. As you might expect, most of what I hear about conditions on the street and in the encampments is pretty depressing.

I realized this week how cynical I have become because of these issues, but it was actually some good news that brought this to my attention. Dawn LaRoque of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center spoke of changes she has started seeing as a result of outreach efforts to those enmeshed in homelessness and addiction. She repeated the phrase “little by little” to describe the gains that outreach workers have been making, and I think it was the repetition that caught my attention. Little by little, lives are changing. Little by little, we’re seeing victories. Little by little, our relatives are finding hope. Little by little …

Aside from the repetition, the fact that Dawn was saying this made me pay attention. She certainly has more reason that I do to be cynical about the current state of affairs. Aside from working as a professional at a social service agency that faces down the drug and homeless epidemics, Dawn lives in Ventura Village, and has had to hit the floor as gunfire has erupted outside her home. She has had to protect her children and grandchildren from everything that happens right outside her door. She has also watched her family members struggle and suffer from these issues. It’s one thing when a county staff member looks at statistics and says the problems are being solved, but it’s very different (and much more meaningful) when someone like Dawn says things are getting better.

Hearing her words felt like seeing the first buds on the trees, or hearing the first bird song, after a long, cold winter. It doesn’t mean the darkness has ended, but it’s a sign that the light is coming.

by Marti Maltby, Director Peace House Community – A Place to Belong

This article originally appeared in “The Alley,” the newspaper for the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis.