Seven Minnesota human services organizations are being recognized for their commitment to providing housing, economic assistance, food, health care and other essential services to the state’s residents. The first award presentation was to Housing Matters in Bemidji, for its work to address the community’s growing housing crisis.
Housing Matters’ mission is for every disabled person experiencing long-term homelessness to have a stable living environment in the community of their choosing, whether living alone or with family members. Housing Matters helped address Bemidji’s growing housing crisis by developing a community-site supportive housing model that led to more supportive housing initiatives. The organization also provides Housing Stabilization Services, the state Medicaid benefit launched in July 2020 to help people find and keep housing.
The Bemidji group is one of the winners of the Commissioner’s Circle of Excellence Awards from the Minnesota Department of Human Services. The awards honor outstanding organizations, counties and tribes for initiatives and innovations that address critical needs in Minnesota’s communities. This is the eleventh year of the awards, which DHS started in 2012.
“Each year, we select groups that demonstrate an unwavering commitment to the well-being of Minnesotans,” said DHS Commissioner Jodi Harpstead. “We are so grateful for the work these organizations are doing to help advance our mission by delivering health care, housing support, economic assistance and other services to their neighbors to enable them to live full lives in community.”
Some winners focus on disability issues. This year’s other winners are:
- American Indian Cancer Foundation, St. Paul
- C.A.R.E. Clinic, Red Wing
- Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, St. Paul
- Hennepin County Human Services Emergency Preparedness Unit
- Hennepin Healthcare, Minneapolis
- Scott County Family Resource Centers, three locations
American Indian Cancer Foundation, St. Paul: The foundation works with tribal nations across the state to address cancer inequities in American Indian communities. In six years of operation, AICAF has provided support and education around policy, systems and environmental change related to healthy eating, tobacco, well-being and physical activity. AICAF participates in DHS’ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education grant, supporting the Ode’imini Giizis Farmers Market in Nett Lake. The market increases access to healthy and traditional foods to elevate food sovereignty, farming and a place to trade.
C.A.R.E. Clinic, Red Wing: The clinic provides low-cost or free dentistry, medical and mental health care in Goodhue County, playing a vital role in making health care more accessible. By focusing on dental care, C.A.R.E. spotlights an overlooked but critical health concern: Poor oral health has been linked to poor mental and overall health, including heart health. Through a comprehensive health care approach, C.A.R.E. ensures that people get the services they need to maintain basic health.
Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, St. Paul: The community center strives to improve quality of life in the community by providing access to critical human services, fostering and promoting personal growth, and developing community leadership. The Basic Needs Program, one of six core program areas, includes a food shelf and clothing bank. It also features a community support navigator who connects constituents with housing, mental health and legal assistance. Operating in a neighborhood whose residents come from a range of racial and ethnic backgrounds, Hallie Q. Brown tailors services to meet the diverse needs of their clientele.
Hennepin County Human Services Emergency Preparedness Unit: The county mobilized a multi-faceted operation to provide temporary housing for more than 1,000 Afghan arrivals, coordinating initial services and supports while permanent housing was being secured for each household. This response brought together human services, emergency response and refugee resettlement agencies to facilitate a smooth transition for Afghan evacuees coming to Minnesota. With the help of dedicated organizations and passionate community volunteers, the unit supplied more than 75,000 meals and 50,000 masks.
Hennepin Healthcare, Minneapolis: This comprehensive, integrated health system includes a hospital, 10 primary care clinics, 36 specialty clinics and community programs for low-income, uninsured/underinsured and vulnerable populations. The award recognizes three innovative efforts to improve health equity:
- The Pediatric Mobility Clinic was a direct response to the precipitous decline in essential childhood vaccinations and other preventive care for at-risk populations of color. It began operating early in the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The Redleaf Center houses Hennepin Healthcare’s Mother-Baby Program, which includes a range of mental health and parenting support for families before and after having a baby. This includes the Mother-Baby Day Hospital, Minnesota’s first and only partial hospital program for perinatal women with mental illness.
- The Talent Garden offers a comprehensive set of events, programs and initiatives designed to connect young people of color with clinicians, with a goal of building interest and providing support for pursuing careers in health care.
Scott County Family Resource Centers, three locations: Launched in 2021, the centers provide a universal access point for families for services including parenting support, early literacy, financial literacy, mental and chemical health services, and assistance such as rental support. A program of the county’s Children’s Services Department, the centers offer support in parenting skills, early childhood development and literacy skills, and navigating domestic violence services. Family Resource Centers are co-located with three community organizations: Jordan Area Food Shelf, Shakopee Library and Savage Library.