Programmatic goals and direct-service priorities for the Minnesota Indian Women's Resource Center's (MIWRC) 2018 fiscal year expanded rapidly in the summer of 2018 when groupings of tents started appearing along Highway 55/Franklin Avenue - just four blocks from our agency building. While safe, stable housing has been a long-standing problem for Native American people and encampments of homeless people in the Twin Cities are nothing new, the high visibility of this location led to a surge in the number of individuals moving in. At the height of the summer/early fall, nearly three hundred people resided in more than two hundred tents in what came to be known as the Franklin Hiawatha Encampment, the Wall of Forgotten Natives, or, most simply, "the Wall."
Due to the Mission of MIWRC and MIWRC's Executive Director, Patina Park's role as 2018 Chair of the Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors (MUID) group, we took on a leadership role almost immediately in August of 2018. Each day the number of people at the Wall and need for services continued to grow; concurrently, the need for intense planning and collaboration on immediate, mid and long-term solutions fell to MUID leadership, MUID member organizations, other nonprofit entities and various City, County, State and Tribal representatives/offices. Each week - sometimes each day or even from hour to hour - included a new crisis or layer requiring discussion across sectors and areas of service provision and never-ending strategizing based on shifting targets, all while prioritizing the humanity of the residents at the Wall with the ominous and completely unavoidable specter of winter getting closer by the day.
While it seemed an insurmountable array of challenges, with intense collaboration and the tireless efforts of many involved, we are pleased to note from the www.franklinhiawathacamp.org website that since August, 119 people have found housing, more than 100 have moved to shelter, and 162 have utilized the Navigation Center. The successful move of all residents away from the Wall was an unprecedented achievement. Though there is still much work to be done as the Navigation Center will close in May of 2019, we want to extend our gratitude especially to the 900+ individual and organization donors who gave resources to MIWRC. We also want to highlight the incredible generosity of the following private foundations who gave significant contributions to MIWRC to do this work: The Minneapolis Foundation, Buuck Family Fund of The Minneapolis Foundation, the Moosehorn Fund of the Minneapolis Foundation, Greater Twin Cities United Way, John and Denise Graves Foundation, Thrivent, Patrick and Aimee Butler Family Foundation, FastBreak Foundation, Louis and Mary Kay Smith Family Foundation, Inc., Ameriprise Financial, Pohlad Family Foundation, Sundance Family Foundation, The Arthur R. and Elaine C. Halbardier Fund of InFaith Community Foundation, The Lois Swenson Fund for Peace, Justice, and Sustainable Communities of InFaith Community Foundation, Wells Fargo Foundation, Sundance Family Foundation, and JAMF Nation Global Foundation.