Community challenges can spring up quickly. When an urgent need arises, the typical speed of philanthropy isn't always effective in addressing it. Recently, the Community Innovation team was able to make an accelerated grant to help tackle one such pressing situation.
The growth in the number of Native Americans experiencing homelessness at an encampment in Minneapolis, known as the "Wall of Forgotten Natives," prompted the Community Innovation team to reach out to community members to see how the Bush Foundation could support a community-led effort to address this urgent need. We asked, could a grant supporting problem solving help Native leaders, encampment residents and public leaders to collaborate? Could it help ensure that solutions are aligned with Native values, traditions and culture?
Through a series of conversations, the Native American Community Development Institute (NACDI) emerged as well positioned to lead a process to address homelessness in the Native community due to its history and depth of relationships. NACDI applied for and received an expedited Community Innovation grant to work with the Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors (MUID) to identify community-led solutions.
Last month, NACDI and MUID organized an initial meeting with more than 100 people including individuals from the American Indian community, residents of the encampment, neighbors, police and elected officials. Attendees discussed the encampment and gave feedback on current efforts to stabilize its residents. Key questions were asked that represented an Indigenous point of view and stressed the assets and strengths of the camp's Native residents. Responses described an urgent need for security, safety and health care, and improved mechanisms for communication and coordination. Importantly, they acknowledged a sense of community among residents and recognized those who provided moral and financial support.
Although in the early stages of the process, we believe the road to finding solutions includes deep community engagement and shared ownership. We look forward to sharing key lessons learned along the way.